Coaching on Chinese Business Practices and Etiquette

“I see, I forget. I hear, I remember. I do, I understand.”  — Chinese Proverb

By Murray Johannsen. Feel free to connect via LinkedIn or directly from this website

Get personalized coaching on topics designed for executives in government or business that will increase your knowledge of Chinese business practices and culture.

In leadership or executive coaching, there is no defined set of hours.  There is a defined set of topic or outcomes one want to understand.  But that does not mean that we do not work to a set of topics.

Subjects Worth Knowing

For example, if you really wanted to do business, there are certain concepts you must understand, certain readings that need to be done and discussions that must be had.  

Topic One: Business Practices and Business Etiquette


Business practices vary depending on what area of China one is looking at and the nature of the industry one is in. That said, there are certain business practices and cultural patterns that are important in conducting business anywhere in China.

While the Chinese business men and women don’t expect foreigners to know all of their customs and courtesies, the more you know, the better off you are. Many have such low expectations of the average Westerner, that if one simply is able to pronounce names properly, you standout from the crowd.

Topics Covered 
• Bargaining and negotiating tactics.
• Contracts and Side Deals
• The Role of Government
• Meeting protocols
• Differences in decision making and problem solving
• Languages Basic Mandarin Phrases
• Guest-Host relationsBanquetsEntertaining and Socializing

Topic 2: Cultural Values That Impact Business Success

One of the most important cultural symbols to understand, there is a great deal of mystery about Yin and Yang and how the two of them work together
Many a business deal falls apart due to fundamental misunderstandings. The toughest aspect of understanding a people are their cultural values. Operating at very subtle level, individuals within a culture often do not clearly understand what those values are.It’s like a fish trying to describe the nature of water or describing the components of air. This is especially true for deals between Asian and American companies since their business and social customs are so different.See what the major studies of cross-cultural business values have to say about the major differences between the West and the East.
• Heterogenous and Homogeneous Culture
• Values such as: Power distanceContext both low and high
• Globe research

Topic 3: Meaning and Symbols

Communication Techniques That Work
“For a month before his trip, Gore read extensively about Chinese history and foreign policy and met with scholars and historians. His speeches were peppered with translations from Chinese poetry— both ancient and modern. Chinese speakers were impressed that he pronounced the leaders’ names correctly.” — From an April of 1997, Los Angeles Times article titled “Gore Visit Helps Thaw Sino-U.S. Ties.”
Description. Many conflicts start with simple misunderstandings. These misunderstandings arise from deep seated cultural assumptions that neither party is fully conscious of. Words are used differently in Asia culture.For example, much is left unsaid, more of what is said is ambiguous. A yes may not mean a yes. More meaning is communicated nonverbal and indirect round about manners. To, “say what you mean and mean what you say,” just does not occur.Examine the major barriers to successful cross-cultural communication and discover what to do about them.
• First Impressions
• How to read nonverbals
• Communication Patterns Low and High Context Elements
• Serial and Circular Reasonings
• Tonal elements of language
• The ritual language of politenessNames and Titles

Topic 4: Business Guan Xi: How to Establish and Build Necessary Relationships

All societies have social roles. Some of these roles exist across the generations.
All societies have social roles. Some of these roles exist across the generations.

“It helps a ton when you learn people’s names and don’t butcher them when trying to pronounce them.” — Jerry Yang

Guan Xi Seminar DescriptionThe way Americans go about establishing business relationships is very different from how the Chinese do so. So different in fact, that it often prevents business deals from closing. On the upside, relationships tend to endure for many years; on the downside, it can take a very long time to develop them.While all Chinese are familiar with the terms guan xi and guan xi wan, few Americans can appreciate or even understand the importance of these terms. The process of developing relationships is one that Chinese spend a great deal of time on and foolish Westerners completely ignore.Learn techniques that can shorten the time and deepen the relationships necessary for business to succeed.
• Elements of Proper Greeting 
• The Greeting Ritual
• Presentation of Name Cards
• Relationship Building (Guan Xi)BuildingMaintainingRepairing
• The Law of Reciprocity
• Face (Mian zi)GivingSavingLosing
• Importance of gifts

Topic 5: Modern and Ancient China

an influencer with a camera
Chinese instantly warm up to you if you can demonstrate some understanding of culture and history. Grasping 5000 years of history is difficult, however. After all, few understand how is the Southern Sung Dynasty different from the Han, Ming or Tang Dynasties.However, at least having some understanding of Chinese history will set you apart from the typical American. It’s also important to understand the two dominant and often conflicting philosophies influencing the Chinese throughout most of their history: i.e. Taoism and Confucianism.And finally, it’s important to examine the policies of two of the most dominant leaders of the 20th century: Dung Xiaoping and Mao Ze Dung.
Topics Covered 
• Ancient History The First EmperorKey Dynasties
• Taoism, Lao Tzu & Chuang Tzu
• Yin and Yang
• Chi and Acupuncture
• Confucianism
• The Founders
• Five relationships
• Five virtues
• The Colonial Period
• Modern ChinaThe Mao YearsDung Xiaoping
• Key Economic Policies
• The Role of Government
• Key Indicators

Subject 6 — Sun Tzu: The Art of War

Mausoleum of Genghis Khan in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China. Image by: Fanghong

It’s often said, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” However, ignorance of strategy is the most dangerous thing of all.

The pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall of China, the Coliseum in Rome are works that have withstood the test of time; as has Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.” Written around 600 B.C., it is still writing read by business and military leaders throughout Asia. It discusses timeless strategies that worked for the heads of Chinese city-states that will work for you. A sample of these ideas include: “To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting,” or “Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.” Through a series of exercises, you will learn how to apply these ideas in your life.

• Introduction

• The Layout of the Book

• Selected Discussion of the Chapters

• Applications

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