Re-wire your western mind

Re-wire your western mind

Want to succeed in Chinese business? Then re-wire your western mind

One of the main roadblocks to people from a western business background who are looking to expand into the Chinese market is that, in many ways, the Chinese business person and the western business person will see things entirely differently. It is not a question of one side being right and one side being wrong. It is simply the case that people from different cultures are raised to see things differently and, in the case of China and, say America or the UK, they are raised to see things very differently.

It can take years of exposure to Chinese culture for a western business person to fully appreciate all the nuances and particularities that differentiate their thinking from that of their Chinese colleagues, partners or clients. This guide, however, can at least prepare you for what you are likely to find, with the key perceptive variances.

Example: Logic

In western society, logic is generally seen as a linear process. We accept A, therefore we accept B and that leads to C. One thing happens it causes another thing to happen from this we can deduce a conclusion. In other words, it's all about working out how one thing causes another thing. In Chinese thinking, things are quite different. Here, logic works in a spiral fashion. The thinking is more subtle and the connections between things are looser and less rigid or provable.

How does this affect business?

This reliance on a more fluid, less structured form of logical reasoning and critical thinking means a lot more time tends to be taken over decisions. Also, a powerful Chinese business partner or potential business partner may need the benefits of a deal explained several different ways, each at great length before being prepared to shake hands.

Example: Disagreements

In western culture, people are generally quite willing to disagree and express their disagreement in the surest and most certain terms. In fact, in many business environments, somebody who is prepared to speak up with a dissenting voice will actually be commended for their honesty, bravery and critical intelligence. In China, openly disagreeing is seen as an almost entirely negative action. If A Chinese person does not agree with you, they will express it in less straightforward terms, often in non-verbal communication.

How does this affect business?

Don't ever expect a straight no when you've made an offer. If the answer is negative, you will probably get a very roundabout, open-to-interpretation explanation that hints towards potential flaws in a proposal, yet never directly touches upon them. In fact, anything other than a very hearty ‘yes' is most probably a ‘no.'

Example: The individual Vs. the Group

In the west, there is a huge premium placed upon the rights, ideas and importance of the individual. If you live in the US, Canada, the UK or central Europe, chances are you have been raised with a keen sense of entitlement regarding your rights and ambitions as a person. In China, a greater focus is put upon what an individual can contribute to the group of which they are a member, often at the expense of individual freedom or short term happiness.

How does this affect business?

Personal autonomy and independence are not respected or granted easily in the Chinese corporate culture. Far more important is to be part of the group and carry out your job to the best of your ability in order to contribute to the group's goal. This can be tough when you have risen through western business, with its romanticism of the maverick attitude and out-of-the-box thinker, but it is crucial to how the Chinese get business done.