Discussion » Chinese Language & Culture » Chinese business stereotypes

  • Minger
    Minger wrote:

    I came across this today on Chinalawblog. Comments?



    Here are 9 common stereotypes you're likely to have in whole or in part, and ways to re-frame them:

    1. The Chinese are out to cheat me.

    China has been through a lot of tough history, over thousands of years and even up to very recent times. Chinese people have had to make tough choices in a world of scarcity. This mentality has been passed down through the generations. No Chinese does anything a Westerner wouldn't do if fighting for survival.

    The upshot: Cross your T’s and dot your I’s. Be prudent, not paranoid.

    2. The Chinese think they're superior.

    The Chinese are legitimately proud of their amazing cultural accomplishments. Think of the food, the monuments, the language, and on and on. Chinese give respect where it's due: to Westerners for their advanced technology and social institutions, and to themselves for what they've done.

    The upshot: Allow yourself to admire what there is to admire, while keeping your cool.

    3. The Chinese lie. 

    People from every culture lie. What Westerners call “lying” in China is often just a more subtle form of communication than we're used to. China is what's known as a “high context” culture: information is assumed to be in the background — the context. The more you learn about the assumed context, the better you'll get at seeing the meaning behind the words.

    The upshot: Get trained on Chinese communication style. Learn as much as you can about the Chinese mindset, so that you know what background assumptions people bring to the conversation.

    4. The Chinese go back on their word.

    Shaped for millennia by a fickle, resource-poor environment rife with natural disasters, the Chinese see the world as constantly in flux. Circumstances change, and it's foolish to set a plan in stone now for an imagined future, when it might not be a fit for the actual future. It's best to remain adaptable and flexible.

    The upshot: Be ready for your counterparts to ask for changes to contracts. Understand that in China the contract is often seen as the beginning of a relationship, not a fixed definition of reality.

    5. The Chinese are always stalling for time. 

    Like any business counterpart anywhere in the world, the Chinese have strategies for getting what they want. A common one is to use home court to their advantage. It's easier on the Chinese if things take longer than it is on you.

    Upshot: Be ready and set reasonable expectations that things probably aren't going to happen quickly.

    6. The Chinese are stingy. 

    The Chinese are thrifty. Again, over millennia the Chinese have often had to scrape together meager livings out of a hostile, overcrowded environment. Every resource is precious, and could disappear at a moment's notice if not carefully guarded.

    The upshot: Negotiation is not viewed as a win–win proposition. Be thrifty with your resources too, and meet the Chinese on their own zero-sum terms.

    7. The Chinese don't care about quality. 

    Everyone cares about quality. But when it comes to priorities, sometimes it's more important to the Chinese to save some resources than to make something that fits Westerners' high standards. See above about precious resources.

    The upshot: Be fastidious and unrelenting in your QC. Get feet on the street and keep them there.

    8. The Chinese don't care about their environment. 

    The world of the average Chinese person is relatively small. People are focused — narrowly, from a prosperous Western perspective

  • Minger
    Minger wrote:


    8. The Chinese don't care about their environment. 

    The world of the average Chinese person is relatively small. People are focused — narrowly, from a prosperous Western perspective — on day-to-day concerns like having enough to eat and a roof over their heads. It might be nice to have a cleaner environment, but for many Chinese that's a luxury.

    The upshot: Instead of complaining about the awful air, imagine what it would be like if you didn’t get to leave it in a week or two.

    9. The Chinese hate Westerners.

    In fact Westerners are much admired in China. What Westerners perceive as “hatred” is usually more a vague sense of suspicion. Like everything else, this results from the thought habits of the past, especially the past century and a half, which saw Westerners exploit and mistreat China. All this means is that you have to earn their trust.

    The upshot: Behave in a way that is worthy of trust, and trust will come. With time.

    Categories can be useful. Reasoned, informed judgment can be useful. Stereotypes have zero business value. Get savvy about your own stereotypes and re-frame them. Not only will you feel better and get along better, but your business will do better."

  • Minger
  • Shane
    Shane wrote:

    11. Prostitution is a part of Chinese business culture.

    In fact, prostitution is an important part of the chinese business culture. Whether its the 180cm secretary with c cups whose salary is higher than a department manager, or the post yingchou trip to the nearest hebei KTV, this aspect of the night life is respected, and often expected to Chinese business executives. China is a land of dwindling resources, and this makes it OK for the rich to exploit seventeen year old villagers.

    The upshot: Everything.

  • 叮噹叔叔 (令狐叮噹)


    Hahahahaha ...

    11 (sub clause a)

    Prostitutes have higher social status than people making less money, in Chinese, 笑贫不笑娼

  • 外交猫
    外交猫 wrote:

    Seeing economic relationships or business transactions in zero-sum terms is actually extremely worrisome and problematic.  The author of this post puts that as a part of his explanation of reality -- not as a stereotype -- as if that's supposed to make us feel better.  A lot of China's problems in international relations also stem from this inclination towards zero-sum thinking.  It does not bode well for the future.

  • Minger
    Minger wrote:

    Shane that was hilarious, I don't know how it got missed when I copied the original article.

    I'm going to admit that I agree with all of these stereotypes. (As phrased by the article writer.) Unfortunately, I've never had the benefit of #11.

  • Minger
    Minger wrote:


    1. 外国人很好骗。

    2. 外国人认为他们很优秀。


  • Ejdnzlaj
    Ejdnzlaj wrote:

    Another classic phrase, though I don't know it in Chinese is: "I think it's ok."

  • Minger
    Minger wrote:



  • Minger
    Minger wrote:


    I feel like you missed the point. Obviously, these points are pretty negative when viewed by our standards, but we shouldn't be viewing them by our standards in the first place. Like it or not (I don't), these are all things that make perfect logical sense in the Chinese business environment. Understanding thest things is better than complaining about them.

    Except for number 2. You're right, I don't know where the hell that comes from. IMO, China as a nation has a giant case of little-man's syndrome. I think it's historically a result of being invaded so many times, and having no recognizable acomplishments in the 60 years of PRC's existance (or the RC before them). Personally I think that not being bankrupt (financially anyway) is an accomplishment worth being proud of, since China is the world's richest country.

    What I actually think is going on with this one is that some Chiense people are pretending to think their country is superior because they're so ashamed of being Chinese. I know a few people from mainland who managed to move to HK and then get citizenships somewhere else, and they always pretend they are not Chinese when Chinese people are around. It looks like a status thing to me.

    Generally Chinese don't hate foreigners either. They just think we're dumb.

    My apologies for the generalizations. Any cultural examination has to be based on stereotypes, and lots of people don't fit them.

  • 叮噹叔叔 (令狐叮噹)


    Hahahahaha ... 莫明 wrote "I know a few people from mainland who managed to move to HK and then get citizenships somewhere else, and they always pretend they are not Chinese when Chinese people are around. It looks like a status thing to me."

    Me too ... I know a few locals, who had not even left China, and insisted on speaking English in public :)

  • Minger
    Minger wrote:


    Andy, I'm not nearly cute enough to be called MM. Better call me Ming instead. Unless I totally misread him though, you don't agree with Thorstan at all. What he's saying is that the explanations/excuses that the author gives for these stereotypes are invalid, and that he accepts the stereotypes at face value.

    Reading these again, I still think that most foreigners will associate these conceptions with business in China, with the exceptions of 2 and 7-9. I really have no idea what the typical stereotypes are for business in India or whereever else, but I suspect many of them are different. The article was written by an American (I presume), and it definitely looks at the question from an American perspective. I agree that these are offensive, but I would apply a completely diferent set to business with Spaniards, for example.

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