When you enter into business negotiations with your Chinese business partners, please keep in mind that they are indeed your partners.
Any feeling of superiority which may overcome you would be totally out of place. We have seen it many times that overseas customers tend to look down on their Chinese counterparts because they may not be fluent in English or do not speak English at all.
This is an unacceptable behavior and does not do justice to really hard working people who do not have such a cozy office and working environment as Westerners usually can enjoy it.
On the other hand you would be surprised to learn how many of your business partners can actually follow the English conversation quite well but will not let you know it.
This gives them the big advantage to think about an appropriate answer during the time when their interpreter is still translating your speech to them.
It is also often overlooked that Chinese company owners are accompanied by some staff that is capable to understand your mother language quite well. This applies for instance to German, Japanese, French and Spanish.
They will also not inform you about their skills but will let their superior in one way or another know, what you had been discussing among each other.
When in China you will also meet with business partners whose appearance and behavior may not be compatible with Westerners’ expectations. Please bear in mind that these people are usually in control of large or sometimes very large factories and earn much more money than you can ever dream of.
Therefore please be careful not to mix up appearance with real power. The gentleman you are reluctant to talk to, may be the only one who can make decisions.
China is changing rapidly and so is the way business negotiations are conducted.
We have seen factory owners, who were not able to speak English but were in control of a small factory some years ago. Nowadays they still cannot speak English but control a workforce of ten thousands of workers and seven large factories, all within just 10 years or so. These people have become very powerful indeed.
… China is changing rapidly and so is the way business negotiations are conducted …
One fact which is usually totally overlooked is that factory owners talk to each other even if they are competitors. They exchange information to a certain extent as long as it fits in their strategy.
Therefore it may well happen that the confidential information which you had given your Chinese business partner is already well known to your next contact before you have even reached his factory during your business trip.
You will be sometimes also confused when a Chinese manager is not taking any notes. Chinese people do have a much better memory than Westerners because their brain has been trained from childhood on to keep the large number of Chinese characters in their memory. Therefore do not worry; your counterpart will not forget the content of your discussions because he has already memorized it.
On the other side you will meet nowadays more and more Chinese managers who are accompanied by senior staff who use their notebook computer to record all important meeting points. This does especially apply during Chinese trade fairs when the factory managers need to communicate with their head office during their absence.