Changes are happening in China that can affect the information and communications technology landscape of not only in Asia but also to the rest of the world.

With the sheer size of its economic capacity and vast human resources, the country is already a force to be reckoned with.  China’s government and its business sectors focus more and more on infrastructure development, training their people in acquiring competent technical skills and communication (English proficiency is now mandatory for earning B.A. and M.A. college degrees) as well as  enhancing their Internet connectivity.

The country is on the rise to becoming a superpower in IT services outsourcing industry by possibly when the millennium reaches its first decade.

Despite these improvements, there are several risk factors that serve as barrier for China in being a business destination for prospective growth. These risk factors can all be boiled down to one thing: China’s business culture.

To make the most of what China has to offer for the savvy IT entrepreneur; cheap but technically-skilled labor, government policies protective of private ownership and intellectual property and physical proximity to solid and growing markets in Asia, the knowledge of Chinese business practices and negotiation strategies is a definite requirement.

Here’s what you got to know about how Chinese do business, taken from Sun Tzu’s influential and culturally significant Art of War:

Immovable as the Mountain.

Patience is a virtue that many Chinese respect and practice, particularly in business. This makes Chinese business leaders and entrepreneurs tough negotiators since they take time in understanding the reasons, risks, rewards and motivating factors of a business proposal through a holistic and long-term view.

Patience is a virtue you can practice yourself in engaging business with the Chinese.

Oftentimes, business deals are conducted through a large dinner with plenty of drinks. Keep a level head, don’t be overwhelmed by the hospitality or you might be forced to agree and held accountable to something that you might decide to be unreasonable by next morning. In such situations, best make it clear though politely that you want to conduct formal business later in order to maintain control on what you say and do.

Be also firm when expressing your company policies, especially regarding on ethics. Be consistent with your words and actions because the Chinese will often evaluate you.

Fierce as Fire.

The Chinese value relationships and they do their best to cultivate these relationships to be lasting. A lot of businesses still go through a traditional person-to-person basis.  Trust is a good foundation to have between you and your Chinese counterparts with mutual respect, harmony and equality as its corner stones.

To create harmonious business atmosphere and incur a favorable response, simple gifts native to your country (or hometown) fare well with the Chinese, fine liquor and chocolates are standard gifts.

The first, and most important, business relationship you must have while doing business in China is acquiring yourself a reliable, impartial translator. Do not depend on translators provided by your Chinese counterparts, it’s best to hire someone who’s well-recommended or a professional advisor who comprehends Western business practices and has some knowledge in the area you do business in.

Quiet as the Forest.

Subtlety is another fine trait that the Chinese respect and apply in their business dealings. They listen more in order to learn more. Professionalism, modesty and courtesy are all part of building and preserving the group harmony the Chinese deem necessary to a long-term business relationship that would reap mutual profits for both sides.

You should apply this in respecting the viewpoints of others and not rushing or pushing matters, the Chinese would often find this offensive and counter to what they know to be good business.

Formality and politeness are good policies to stand by in dealing with the Chinese, especially during misunderstandings and stalemates.

Don’t give sudden unsolicited advice or opinions. Make a request first and wait for their consent after diagnosing the matter.

The Chinese generally do not volunteer information or give feedback. If you require these, ask so with persistence and politeness.

Speak clearly, concisely and slowly, even with your interpreter.

Apply tact especially when you must decline. The Chinese have a hard time saying “no” and an even harder  time taking a blunt “no” directly for an answer.

Swift as the Wind.

The Chinese are willing to be flexible and compromise for the sake of harmony and in achieving consensus for a win-win situation.

With the Chinese, communication is a vital, continuous process. They would often renegotiate previous matters that have already been agreed upon in order to better the deal. When this happens, be gracious, open and flexible as well.

Focus on the issues and on achieving consensus. Compromise until you reach common ground and prepare your company for such changes.

It’s been said since time immemorial that when in Rome, do as the Romans do. The same can be applied that when doing business in China, doing business their way would present you with more approval and high esteem from the Chinese you will do business with, to consider you indeed their equal, their counterpart and most importantly, their partner.

Outsourcing Solutions, Inc. – your outsourcing partner!



  1. Bahrin, Farihan. “IDC Study Shows China Outsourcing Gain”. 5 July 2007. BusinessWeek.com. Accessed 23 July 2008. Link here.
  2. Brown, Kerry. “7 1/2 ways to win business in China”. Updated 22 July 2008. Venture Outsource.com. Accessed 23 July 2008. Link here.
  3. Chan, Savio S. “IT Outsourcing in China: How China’s Five Emerging Drivers Are Changing the Technology Landscape and IT Industry.” 14 March 2005. The Outsourcing Institute. Accessed 23 July 2008. Link here.
  4. De Baar, Bas. “Why Outsource to China.” Software Projects.org. Accessed 23 July 2008. Link here.
  5. Stetson-Rodriguez, Marian and Wan, David. “China: How to negotiate and other Chinese business practices.” Updated 22 July 2008. Venture Outsource.com. Accessed 23 July 2008. Link here.


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