There are three elements to highlight that affect business culture: the first is the socio-cultural policies and the People’s Republic of China, the second the influence of Confucianism and Taoism and the third the existence and use by the Chinese negotiators of two works traditional: the Art of War and Secret Art of War: 36 stratagems.

Over the past two thousand years, Confucianism and Taoism have shaped the design of China’s political, educational, and economic systems, and influenced the behavioral and thinking patterns of the Chinese people.

The western business practices admitted through China’s open door have change the way into a smoother communication during business negotiations, despite sometimes constrained by conflicting concepts or values.

This are the three main ideas of negotiation in China:

a) Focus on Relationships

The central theme of Confucianism is relationships, in particular, interpersonal relationships. In the eyes of the Chinese people, any relationship between businesses is ultimately built up to relationships between individuals.

Westerners tend to view interpersonal relationships not as a prerequisite to business relationships. In the West, relationships often grow out of business deals, whereas in China business deals usually grow out of relationships.

b) Respect for Hierarchy

Hierarchy, interdependence, and reciprocity are the key features of Confucianism’s five interpersonal relationships: between ruler and ruled, husband and wife, parents and children, older and younger brothers, and friend and friend. Except for the last, all the relationships were strictly hierarchical.

Failure to honor these characteristics can endanger interpersonal relationships as well as mutual trust among negotiating parties. Hierarchy is reflected in the way Chinese people address and greet each other, how decisions are made, and who speaks during meetings.

c) Trust and Ethics

Western cultures often perceive their ethical norms to be universally applicable, and consequently categorically view deception as evil. But in neo-Taoist societies such as China, Japan and Korea, in which ethical duties are viewed as contextual, the motives for it and existing relationships can sometimes render deception virtuous.

From a Chinese perspective, negotiation exists primarily as a mechanism for building trust so that two parties can work together for the benefit of both. Trust is built through dialogue that lets each party judge or evaluate the partner and the partner’s capabilities and assess each other’s relative status.

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Given the greatness of its territory, ethnic diversity, and fast pace of change, China’s business culture is not at all times and in all places the same. Chinese business culture should instead be seen as a meld of modern western ideas and traditional Chinese values.


Alba Traver Gual

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