Doing Business in China

No matter where you are located in the world it is not difficult to see Chinese investment and influence. As the world’s 2nd biggest economy and largest exporter, the Chinese economy shows no signs of slowing down and is predicted to grow by 6.3% in 2019, making the nation a force to be reckoned with. China’s economic dominance aside, while doing business in China may be an alluring idea, the practicalities of entering the Chinese market remain challenging.

A Communist party rule with little inclination for liberal reform and many state-owned enterprises governing the financial sector all contribute to China scoring a low ranking of 100 on the Index of Economic Freedom and 78 on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index. Corruption, non-tariff barriers and the prevalence of state-owned enterprises, limit foreign investment and all make doing business in China more difficult.

A growing middle-class, however, look set to put pressure on the government to effectively manage the growth of the economy as they demand higher wages, whilst creating a massive new internal consumer market, presenting both local and international businesses with new opportunities.

Understanding Chinese culture is exceptionally challenging as communication can be an obstacle, unless you speak Mandarin Chinese, with a translator often being required. Many Chinese business professionals do not like to say ‘no’ to requests, believing that to do so would cause embarrassment. Thus, it pays to be wary of phrases such as ‘Yes but it might be difficult’ and ‘Yes, probably’ as they can often lead to misunderstandings.

Other elements of Chinese culture include the fact that it is regarded as impolite to look people straight in the eye. Instead, Chinese professionals tend to look down, lowering the eyes as a mark of respect. When doing business in China it is beneficial to remember that respect plays a large role in the hierarchical nature of Chinese business and society.

If you are looking to do business in China, you will find a wealth of insight and practical advice on the World Business Culture website to help successfully navigate the country’s unique economic systems and communication and cultural styles.


This country-specific business culture profile was written by Keith Warburton who is the founder of the cultural awareness training consultancy Global Business Culture

Global Business culture is a leading training provider in the fields of cross-cultural communication and global virtual team working.  We provide training to global corporations in live classroom-based formats, through webinars and also through our cultural awareness digital learning hub, Global Business Compass.

This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in China only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.

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