by Keith Pauley

Photo taken during Charleston Area Alliance trade mission.

Over the last several years, it’s been my pleasure to develop business relationships with companies based in China. During the course of my travels to the country and interactions with Chinese executives, I have learned that doing business in China is much different than working in Europe or America.

Here are my top ten insights about doing business in China.

1 | China is filled with obvious business opportunities–like Easter egg hunting in a gymnasium.

2 | Chinese businesses work almost exclusively on relationships. They would rather work with someone they trust than someone who gives them a good business deal.

3 | These relationships take multiple visits to establish, which requires significant time and expense for U.S. businesses.

4 | Chinese businesses often have only one decision maker—the CEO or similar.  There is little business need to build relationships with middle techno-economic-chemical-design-technology-improvement.  However, since relationships are what life is about, you should do it anyway.

5 | Relationship building encompasses more than just business meetings around conference tables. The Chinese believe that relationships are built with food, drink and time spent outside the business environment.

6 | Chinese business leaders seldom, if ever, tell you “no” in a negotiation. They believe that out-right rejection will shame you.

7 | The Chinese do not talk about politics at all—theirs or ours.

8 | Chinese companies do not pay as much attention to contracts as Americans.  They will make things right if necessary, but will seldom be bullied by the literal translation of a contract. They are unlikely to sue you as well.

9 | Obviously, they speak another language. However, they often understand English better than they speak it.

10 | Always use your own translator. Their translator may not be very accurate for a variety of reasons, which can create significant confusion.

These are some of my observations about doing business with the Chinese. I welcome your comments and insights on similar or differing experiences.

— Pauley is CEO of the Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center (MATRIC).