The Olive Way E-Newsletter 

October 2008


The Middle Kingdom Says Trust First  


People generally do business with those they like and trust.  Sometimes in North America, this is not always the case.¹  However, with our domestic business community becoming more multicultural, and with our companies going global, establishing trust with buyers, suppliers or joint venture partners becomes ever more critical in our success.  Here are some techniques you may find useful to gain trust when working with a Chinese company.


· Be extremely patient.  It is important to build good rapport first or to cultivate “Guanxi” – personal connections or relationships that lead to business.  If you are a guest, do not rush into business unless your host initiates it.  Business will follow when you have gained trust.  This process of gaining trust can be much longer than many would expect.  It is not an exaggeration that in China “there is a long process of getting to know one another, usually over several meals, before doing any kind of business – including science.”²



· Be a good listener.  Attention shows your sincerity and respect, and it gives face. Only those that listen will win trust.



· Keep in mind that face -“mianzi” is of particular importance to the Chinese.  Don’t do or say things that could cause someone to lose face.  Be sweet, and be generous with compliments.



· Create good and harmonious atmosphere from the start.  Smile, even if you are on the phone – the other end will “hear” your smile and feel good about it.  Use friendly language even when you disagree.  If someone starts every sentence in a confrontational manner, what kind of rapport is s/he building and where is the foundation for trust?  I once told such a confrontational buyer that I did not feel the atmosphere right to talk further and to do business.



· Find topics of common interest, such as sports, weather, family, China’s development, the 2008 Olympics and Paralympics, their facilities, Chinese movies and movie stars etc.…  This will bring you closer to your Chinese counterparts.  Do you know about Norman Bethune?  Every Chinese arguably does.  So if you don’t, find out about him, especially if you are Canadian, so as not to be embarrassed when someone mentions him.  Watch a movie about him,³ and even better, read former Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s eulogy for Bethune!  The Chinese will be impressed that you know this much.   


1.Mark Norell, an American Paleontologist, noted in his book, Unearthing the Dragon: The Great Feathered Dinosaur Discovery (New York: PI Press, 2005) : “New Yorkers do business with people we don’t like and sometimes have never met.” p.21 


3.“Bethune: The Making of a Hero” is a movie produced in 1990 with Donald Sutherland playing Bethune.



Have a comment?  Want to share your thoughts and stories with me or our readers?  Please send your email to us.  We look forward to hearing from you!


© 2008  Jacqueline Wu & Olive Kan Global.  All rights reserved.




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