Opening the Door to Building Trust in China

With global economies shifting, China is becoming a major player in the global marketplace, and Western businesses must be able to build trusting relationships with their Chinese counterparts. But as cultural norms and business practices vary widely between Western and Chinese cultures, how are relationships formed and trust built?

In the West, we tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. Trust is built as business relationships develop. But in Chinese cultures, trust is something that is not assumed. It has to be earned before business relationships can truly begin. This lack of initial trust changes the way relationships develop and business is forged.

China is a relationship-based culture, where connections and social networks shape society. The Chinese term for this connection-based way of building relationships is guanxi. Guanxi is only established through mutual trust and is an integral part of the Chinese business world. It is imperative that Western companies focus on demonstrating their true desire for a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship. It is not just about what you get out of it, but what you can offer as well. Once trust is established, a healthy partnership can move forward.

When building trust with the Chinese, keep the following in mind:

  • Take time to develop relationships. This takes patience, and at times you will feel like things are going nowhere, but it is imperative to give it time before expecting deals to be done.
  • Don’t just talk about your competence and expertise, demonstrate it. By doing so, trust will develop more quickly.
  • Don’t get too personal too soon. Focus on what you can offer a business relationship and let the personal and social side (parties, gifts, etc.) develop in their own time.
  • Understand that in the West, we view a contract as an end result, but in China it is viewed as a starting point of a long-term relationship and is seen as something that may be altered over time and not set in stone.

Once trust is established, you have developed guanxi and are now part of a complex network of mutual respect and support. This trust will open the door to long-term business relationships and success for all parties involved.

Find out more about doing business in China through specialised intercultural business training, consulting and coaching services with Global Training Specialists. Global business training that ensures individuals and businesses have the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to succeed in an increasingly global and multicultural environment.

About The Author:

Hollie Blakeney is Associate Director, Global Training Specialists, and a certified trainer and experienced intercultural and diversity consultant in cross-cultural, personal, leadership & management, and customer service training for multinational organisations. She has extensive work experience in Asia, the US, and Latin America and has provided training at IKEA Taiwan, Motorola, Philips Semiconductors, PepsiCo Latin America, the Colombian Petroleum Institute and Spar Ireland, among others.

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