Gong Xi Fa Cai! As the Year of the Rat begins January 25, 2020, I wish you all a healthy, wealthy and prosperous new year!
The Year of the Rat symbolizes vitality, and it is believed to be particularly good for businesses and entrepreneurs. China has always been a very attractive market, offering great potential for foreign companies. However, to take advantage of this treasure chest, aspiring entrepreneurs need a great deal of patience and passion to understand Chinese culture.
As a China-born PR expert now based in Hong Kong, I offer you these four tips:
- Location makes a difference
China is huge and companies from different cities follow different cultures and styles when doing business. In the country’s first-tier cities such as the finance hubs of Shenzhen and Shanghai, companies tend to be more focused on efficiency and business outcomes. In Beijing, where the central government and many state-owned enterprises are located, people are traditionally more focused on cultivating relationships (guanxi) and adhering to procedures when making business decisions.
- Speaking Chinese is an advantage
In first-tier cities with a high market penetration by foreign players, it is not difficult to find sophisticated and knowledgeable local people who can communicate smoothly in English or in other foreign languages. When visiting second- and third-tier cities, where growth potential is believed to be much higher and there’s more demand for market expansion from overseas, a Chinese-speaking representative would be a strong advantage in building trust and relationships with your local business counterparts.
- Media promotion is king
In China, most enterprises attach great importance to media relations and see it as a key mission. China’s media industry, including advertising, social media and public relations, is huge and vibrant and has significant influence on business. And given China’s socialist market economy, the “promotion department” at most Chinese commercial entities have a superior status and an essential role in both internal education and external promotion. They have very clear and meticulous work allocation in dealing with different aspects of promotion and media relations. To understand the matrix of such work allocation and internal relationships, you have to be prepared to make your communication with your Chinese clients more efficient.
- Be humble and put aside business ego
Understanding the “guanxi” (relationships) within any Chinese company is a mandatory part of pursuing business and building trust in China. When you start to build relationships in any Chinese company, being respectful and acting with courtesy to everyone is crucial, especially when you are unfamiliar with the hierarchy and seniority of the people you meet. Be humble is the rule of thumb! Put aside your ego, use each interaction with your Chinese clients as a learning opportunity. This will ensure your relationships are peaceful.
Gong Xi Fa Cai! Good luck in a new year that is about to bring vitality in life and business alike.