Chinese Business Etiquette You Should Know When Doing Business in China

Doing business in China could be the best decision that you can make as an entrepreneur. Many Chinese are good partners in business. However, business practices may from country to country, especially in China. Therefore, it is best to observe proper behavior to avoid misunderstanding.

When you do business with the Chinese, be sure to observe the following Chinese business etiquette, for even a slight wrong gesture might be taken as an insult.

Dress code

Dress Code
Dress Code

Dress formally. Wearing a formal attire commands respect and seriousness. One’s appearance is important when attending any business meeting. Avoid wearing bright colors. Be decent.


[caption id="attachment_591" align="alignleft" width="191"]Punctuality Punctuality[/caption]

Attend the business meeting on time. The Chinese value punctuality. In Chinese business culture, being late in a meeting is not taken lightly. Thus, to be safe, arrive at the meeting place before the agreed time. But do not feel bad if your Chinese counterpart is the one who arrives late.


Come prepared

When meeting with the Chinese, you must always come prepared. If you have anything to present, be sure that you arrive ready and have all the materials that you may need. Although the Chinese like small talks, it does not mean that they do not expect to have a professional or business talk.


In many cultures, a handshake takes the place of a greeting. However, when dealing with a Chinese, wait for him to initiate the handshake. Moreover, unlike in Western practice where both men seem to compete on which of them has the stronger grip (squeeze), do not be as aggressive when shaking hands with a Chinese. And do not be surprised if the Chinese gives a soft handshake. In China, it is not about who has the stronger grip, but who can last longer.

Small talks

The Chinese like engaging in small talks, especially at the start of a meeting. This tends to lighten up things before going into serious matters. The Chinese also value building a good personal relationship. It is not all about business. They are also interested to know you as a person.

Try to speak their language

Speak their language. At least try to do so. Pronounce the words correctly, so it will not look as if you are making fun of their language. You do not have to be good at it. Just learn a few words and sentences, like how to say “Thank you.” or “How are you?” in Chinese. They will appreciate that you try to learn their language.

A Yes does not always mean that they agree

The Chinese are very polite. They rarely give a blunt no even if they disagree with you. This does not mean that they want to trick you. It is simply part of their business etiquette to be this polite. In fact, it is a kind gesture that they do not want to offend you. This may come in a form of “Yes, BUT…” Or, instead of saying yes, they will say maybe. Do not worry; you can always ask them politely for clarifications if you get confused.

Do not use the word No

[caption id="attachment_590" align="alignleft" width="110"]Don't Said "NO" Don’t Said “NO”[/caption]

When doing business in China, avoid using the word no. Just as the Chinese do not use this word to express disapproval, it is fair that you also do the same. Of course, you can say no when discussing trivial matters, but not when it comes to serious business matters. Remember to avoid giving strong negative statements.


On exchanging business cards

Exchanging business cards is a common practice in business. Use both hands when giving and receiving a card. If you are on the receiving side, take some time to examine the card and give a positive comment when possible. Moreover, when doing business in China, make your card bilingual: one side in English and another side in Chinese, and give your card with the side written in Chinese face up, so it can easily be seen.

Do not bring any gift or present

In Chinese business etiquette, this may be considered as bribery. A business meeting is not the time to give gifts.

Business meal

Do not discuss business over a meal unless your Chinese partner wants to talk about it. Mealtime even during a business meeting should be spent for topics that are not related to business. Go back to small talks. Moreover, even during a small talk, avoid talking about politics, because you do not know if you share the same view as your Chinese counterpart.

If the food is served by your Chinese host, you must know how much you should eat: On the one hand, do not empty your plate or bowl as if to show that the food is not enough. On the other hand, do not leave so much food as if to show that you do not like the dish that they prepared for you. A good tip is to show your Chinese host that you enjoy the meal while eating, by giving a positive comment on the food. Then save a little food on your plate. This will show that you truly love their food but simply cannot take another bite because you are full.

Do not be surprised when the Chinese get noisy (slurping and belching) when they eat, it simply shows that they enjoy the meal. If you want, you can also do the same.

Have a drink

It is a common practice in China to have liquor drinks. If you do not drink, inform your Chinese host about it before the meeting. Health reasons would be a good excuse not to drink.

Body language and gestures

[caption id="attachment_593" align="alignleft" width="97"]Body Language Body Language[/caption]

Observe proper body behavior. Do not whistle or bite your nails. Do not cover your mouth or nose when engaged in conversation. Do not point using your finger. It is a common practice in China to point using an open hand. Keep your actions clear and polite, expressing respect and decency.


After the meeting

You are expected to leave earlier than your Chinese counterpart. It is not that he wants you to leave and is sending you away. This is simply part of Chinese business etiquette.

Express your appreciation

This is not just a part of Chinese business etiquette but of human etiquette. It is just and proper to express appreciation when somebody treats you nicely. In the same way, when your Chinese partner treats you for dinner or does something good to you, show that you appreciate it. At least learn to say Thank you.


Some Chinese business etiquette are unique and may not apply when you meet for business with other people. However, it is important that you know these practices when doing business in China to avoid misunderstanding. In fact, these Chinese business etiquette rules apply not only when you do business in China, but also when you attend a business meeting with a Chinese, regardless of the location.

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