How to work effectively with Chinese partners or agents?

4 senior members from CRCC Asia, Bank of China, Active Anglo Chinese Communications and Davica HR gathered at a China Unbound event to compare UK and Chinese’s approach to leadership and how we can build more successful cross-cultural teams and fruitful collaborations. Here’s part 2 of 4 of our post-event highlight (UK vs Chinese Leadership)!

Q: If you are working with Chinese partners or agents, how do you get international collaboration?

A: “It is very important to learn what the structure is like in China, and how to work the hierarchy system. Nurture the relationship and show people respect is very important for a long term business,” Yintong Betser, MD, Active Anglo Chinese Communications explains.

You must also make sure that you are talking to the right person. As often there are junior line managers involved in the process – build relationships with them to get things done, but make sure you are talking to the senior managers if you need decisions made.

We should also realise that often the decision isn’t actually made here in the UK. The Chinese companies are massive in China, but they are a smaller operation here, and they don’t necessarily have the autonomy. So helping the managers here to send the right messages back so the right answer comes back is important. Claire Martin, Director of Davica HR adds.

Edward Pearce, Director of CRCC Asia adds: “The role of the government is also very important. Especially if you work with State Owned Enterprises.”

“A lot of UK organisations go into China and expect instant results. But you have to be patient and open minded.” Bester says. “For example, is common sense international? My British colleagues will say, of course! But is it? If your boss is supposed to chair a meeting but they are running late, would you go ahead and start the meeting? To the Chinese, the common sense is not to start. But in the English culture, to be punctual probably is more the common sense. So it is always a different interpretation.”

“Another example is how age is viewed. In the Chinese Culture, older can mean more responsible, more caring, so can be positive sentiments. But in the UK – people can get very upset if you tell them they are old!”

So things can be interpreted from different cultural references in China. Knowing these basics help build stronger relationships and are fundamental to effective business strategies as you cannot sell to someone effectively if you don’t understand the world from their point of view.