Culture Report on China
At the meeting of board of the directors on 1st of March 2005, it was proposed to clarify the opportunities for the Rynkeby Juice products to be introduced into the Chinese market. Therefore, Mr. Morten Hjort was asked to visit China in order to get better understanding about the business environment and if there are potential buyers for Rynkeby Juice A/S.
Facts and Statistics
- Eastern Asia bordering Afghanistan 76 km, Bhutan 470 km, Burma 2,185 km, India 3,380 km, Kazakhstan 1,533 km, North Korea 1,416 km, Kyrgyzstan 858 km, Laos 423 km, Mongolia 4,677 km, Nepal 1,236 km, Pakistan 523 km, Russia (northeast) 3,605 km, Russia (northwest) 40 km, Tajikistan 414 km, Vietnam 1,281 km
- extremely diverse; tropical in south to sub arctic in north
- 1,298,847,624 (July 2004 est.)
- Ethnic Make-up:
- Han Chinese 91.9%
- Zhuang, Uygur, Hui, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Manchu, Mongol, Buyi, Korean, and other nationalities 8.1%
- Daoist (Taoist)
- Buddhist, Muslim 1%-2%
- Christian 3%-4%
- Communist state
Gary P. Ferraro, The cultural dimension of international business, Fourth edition
The following description of the Chinese culture, as far as it is relevant for setting up a business deal in China is based on the following features, communication style, time dimension, and business style, type of society, uncertainty avoidance and femininity/masculinity characteristics.
Confucius, a philosopher who lived more than 2,500 years ago, still has the greatest influence over every aspect of Chinese society. Westerners attempting to work in China should understand the profound impact that Confucian ideas have on the average Chinese citizen. Essentially, Chinese society was in considerable disorder when Confucius observed that the path to happiness for any society lay in the degree to which individuals understood and obeyed their given roles in the order of things. For example, the child always obeyed the teacher, the father obeyed the leaders, and the wife obeyed the husband. They believe in the value of individuals not desiring to change their place in the world, not seeking individual acknowledgment based on individual achievement, and the requirement that anything done right must be done with consideration for how it impacts others and the correct or righteous order of things.
Working in China today requires networks of dependent relationships. For example, gifts are given as a token of respect and allow individuals to build obligations between themselves and others who can assist them in China's business and social world.
Non verbal communication
When you consider doing business in China there are a lot of thing to do non verbal to improve your performance. It is the key for a successful interfering.
Non-verbal communication plays an important role not only in personal communication but also in intercultural communication as well. During Ming and Qing Dynasties, thousands of Jesuits came to China to preach Christianity. Although they chose verbal communication as their basic method, they thought highly of the importance of non-verbal communication. In ancient China, an individual’s identity or position in a society was manifested through clothing. In order to blend into the Chinese society, the Jesuits employed the various advantages of non-verbal communication. When they first came to China, they just wore gowns for Buddhists, but they soon changed them into Chinese intellectuals’ costumes. Not only were they conscious of the garments they wore, the Jesuits were also sensitive to their appearance in general. They made efforts to conform to the habits of the Chinese intellectuals’ communication style, writing books and presenting one another with poems. Besides, they even changed their European names into Chinese ones. All this shows much about the philosophy of non-verbal communication.
The Chinese’ Non-verbal communication speaks volumes. Since the Chinese strive for harmony and are group dependent, they rely on facial expression, tone of voice and posture to tell them what someone feels compared to western countries where you make gestures with your arms and hands but in a country like China you would appear offending or violent. Frowning while someone is speaking is interpreted as a sign of disagreement. Therefore, most Chinese maintain an impassive expression when speaking. Many Chinese will look towards the ground when greeting someone because it is considered disrespectful to stare into another person's eyes. In crowded situations the Chinese avoid eye contact to give themselves privacy as being a western country you have to notice this because in western countries it is seen as a way to pay attention to who you are speaking with by having eye contact. Then do not think that the Chinese are insecure by not making eye contact with you.
Never lose sight of the fact that communication is official, especially in dealing with someone of higher rank. Treating them too informally, especially in front of their peers, may well ruin a potential deal. The Chinese prefer face-to-face meetings rather than written or telephonic communication the main reason is that they cannot see the non verbal communication through the telephone or the written message, which counts for a great percentage of the communication with a Chinese. Chinese are non-confrontational. They will not overtly say 'no', they will say 'they will think about it' or 'they will see once again because they do not want to lose face.
In Chinese business culture, conservative suits and ties in subdued colours are the norm. Bright colours of any kind are considered inappropriate. Women should wear conservative suits or dresses; a blouse or other kind of top should have a high neckline. Stick with subdued, neutral, colours such as beige and brown. Men should wear suits and ties to formal events; tuxedoes are not a part of Chinese business culture.
Being aware of that you have non verbal signalised that you respect the culture. Because of the emphasis on conservative, modest, dress in Chinese business culture, flat shoes or very low heels are the main footwear options for women. This is true especially if you are relatively much taller than your hosts. High heels are acceptable only at a formal reception hosted by a foreign diplomat. Good to know is that Jeans are accepted as casual wear for both men and women and shorts are only for sports and exercising.
Universalism versus particularism
Greetings are formal and the oldest person is always greeted first because China is a particularistic country where relationships are prioritised very high. Handshakes are the most common form of greeting with foreigners. Address the person by an honorific title and their surname. If they want to move to a first-name basis, they will advise you which name to use. The Chinese have a terrific sense of humour. They can laugh at themselves most readily if they have a comfortable relationship with the other person. Be ready to laugh at yourself given the proper circumstances.
The Chinese don't like doing business with companies they don't know, so working through an intermediary is crucial. This could be an individual or an organization who can make a formal introduction and vouch for the reliability of your company. The Chinese often use intermediaries to ask questions that they would prefer not to make directly. Business relationships are built formally after the Chinese get to know you. Be very patient. It takes a considerable amount of time and is bound up with enormous bureaucracy. The Chinese see foreigners as representatives of their company rather than as individuals. Rank is extremely important in business relationships and you must keep rank differences in mind when communicating. Meals and social events are not the place for business discussions. There is a demarcation between business and socializing in China, so try to be careful not to intertwine the two.
Collectivism vs. Individualism
In general, the Chinese are a collective society with a need for group affiliation, whether to their family, school, work group, or country, compared to Denmark they are far more group orientated than we are In order to maintain a sense of harmony, they will act with decorum at all times and will not do anything to cause someone else public embarrassment. They are willing to set a side their own feelings for the good of the group. This is often observed by the use of silence in very structured meetings. If someone disagrees with what another person says, rather than disagree publicly, the person will remain quiet. This gives face to the other person, while speaking up would make both parties lose face.
You should arrive at meetings on time or slightly early. The Chinese view punctuality as a virtue. Arriving late is an insult and could negatively affect your relationship with the Chinese, they sees punctuality as a virtue because being late would affect the rest of the group.
As we live in an increasingly multi-cultural world, understanding the differences between cultures is becoming increasingly important. We also need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of our own culture in order to avoid our own blind spots.
An Anglo-Saxon tendency (the US and UK along with countries like Australia have identical scores under Hofstede’s system), is to imagine that other cultures will end up copying Anglo-Saxon cultures.
It is also easy to assume that use of the same products and services actually affects the way that people think, or that the fact that people follow a particular religion necessarily means that they share the same views as others who practice that religion.
According to Hofstede, China is a predominantly masculine country.
The masculinity is characterized by such features as e.g. the traditional masculine work role model of male achievement, control and power. High masculinity ranking indicates the country experiences a high degree of gender differentiation. In these countries, males dominate a significant portion of the society and power structure, with females being controlled by male domination.
Uncertainty avoidance means the avoidance of risks and the creation of complex rules in order to deal with any possible situation. Nations with weak uncertainty avoidance are more comfortable with ambiguous situations; they are more relaxed about change and innovation.
This is an area which causes a lot of misunderstanding; people from low uncertainty avoidance cultures like the Danes distrust too many rules and regulations, but for the Chinese such rules are essential.
Strong uncertainty avoidance cultures also have an urge to work hard and an emotional need for rules (and taboos), and a fear of what is different, experts are very important and there is a desire for certainty and intolerance of alternative ideas. Weak uncertainty avoidance cultures have few taboos, religious or otherwise, and are not naturally punctual, but are tolerant and often lazy.
The uncertainty avoidance is the lack of tolerance for ambiguity and the need for formal rules. That means people trying to set up rules to the uncertainty. There is high uncertainty avoidance in most oriental countries such as China. In China, people prefer a stable job. They feel safe and prideful when they keep working hard at the one place. Under this circumstance, an excellent manager should keep his employee away from unpredictable risk. And the employee would like to be worked within groups rather than independently because of the less risk taking. The opposite goes for most western countries, where there is low uncertainty avoidance. The western people think that when they change their jobs, they can get more experience because they like challenge, and believe what is different is curious..
In this section we would like to conclude on our findings, and we have found out that to overcome the great cross cultural communication barriers between Denmark and China, is to achieve an understanding of the Chinese peoples behaviours and attitudes. The Chinese culture is based upon the Confucius’ rules, which can be defined as a very hierarchical structure of society, where the son obeys his father and the father his superior.
Another thing to be aware of is the nonverbal communication which plays a very big part in communications. A lot of communication takes place when talking to a Chinese and noticing all the signs sent and received is very important.
Relationships are very important and maintaining them is even more important, because China is a particularistic country, this is also noticeable in the collectivist dimension of Chinese culture where the group is more important than the individual.
China is a very masculine country where gender roles are very specific, men have the control and power which also is seen the male population dominating the powerstructure.
Uncertainty avoidance is very high in China, which is shown in the work culture where a job is taken for life and that they are happy with being in a stable and secure job. They also prefer working in groups instead of individual work.
Listed below are our recommendations on doing successful business in China:
- Be aware of the cross cultural barriers because have you accepted their existents you are ready to deal with them
- Be aware of Confucius’ rules
- Rank and relationships means a lot to the Chinese people so it is important to choose the right representative from these factors status and position
- Relationship means a lot in China and therefore it is important to work together with an agent because a Chinese would not do business with someone they do not know
- Building up a good relationship might help you in the long run.
- Avoid eye contact and the use of wild gestures because these things are considered different in China.
- Do not make others loose their face in public because loosing face in front of others is a big shame.
- Be on time because you lateness would affect the group and being a collectivist country that means a lot to people.
- Have in mind that the Chinese prefer stability at work and work hard and group work are preferred.