Author: Maciej Witkowski
Year of publication: 2003
Source: Show
Pages: 94-118
DOI Address:
PDF: ap/6/ap0603.pdf


The author analyses the Chinese commercial negotiating practices for two purposes: to minimize misunderstanding in such activity and to provide Western negotiators with some advice. The negotiation of the Westerners with the Chinese are complicated because of fundamental cultural differences. Without basic knowledge of the Chinese concepts of negotiations and the East-Asian collectivist culture, it is almost impossible to achieve satisfactory outcome of negotiations.
Guy Olivier Faure’s model of negotiating by Chinese partners is presented as a point of departure. According to him the two “negotiating strategies” are applied: of “mobile warfare” and of “joint search for a solution”. The first includes traditional Chinese strategic concepts and various stratagems, and it seems very difficult to foreigners to cope with. One of its essential aims is wearing down the partner’s negotiating team by every means. The first approach presumes that the Chinese side deals with the “aliens” who in general are hostile or deceitful. The second is based on a presumption that the Chinese side deals with a partner with whom a kind of a “community” could be created. Under such circumstances friendly attitudes are expected and through the negotiations both sides acquire mutual knowledge of the partner. Therefore both sides should present themselves, their needs and aims, and should clearly define common interest and outline common context of the discussion. In this process elementary knowledge of Chinese culture and norms of etiquette are indispensable, without it the foreign partner would be unable to properly deal with changing situations and expectations of the Chinese side. Faure indicates that a deeper “friendly relation” offers more chances for a successful outcome. In order to present in detail such a most fruitful course of negotiations, the author explore the main characteristics of the traditional Chinese mentality and of the Chinese negotiating patterns. The contradictions between the two background approaches based on different ways of life are outlined: the Western - strictly individualistic and the Chinese - collectivist.
Individualist and collectivist ways of thinking imply different presumptions about the nature of relationship and about one’s own role in the negotiations. The author points out the main differences between Western and Chinese partners (to a certain degree East Asian partners in general) during the negotiating process, and offers some practical advice to Polish firms how to carry out commercial negotiations. The analysis is based on the individualist and collectivist models of behavior elaborated by cross-cultural psychology. Among the most essential rules of negotiation with Chinese partners one can enumerate the following:

  1. The traditional Chinese process of negotiations is slow and time consuming;
  2. The process of decision making should be based on mutual consent;
  3. The Chinese side should feel that the partner is known well and reliable before signing the contract;
  4. The Chinese do not express openly disagreement, dissent or negative emotions, but offer merely some hints that a change is necessary, it is required by the norms of Chinese politeness and “face-protecting”;
  5. The behaviors of Chinese partners is to a significant degree highly ritualised, and a foreign partner should know how to respect these rules, at least in part;
  6. The Chinese concept of guanxi and of establishing such a relation are extremely useful in negotiations;
  7. The Chinese highly appreciate equal, or “honest”, distribution of goods and profits, as well as of risks and burdens, and considers it fundamental for a long-term relationship and co-operation.

Therefore the expectations of a quick, profitable deal usually produces merely frustration. The successful operating requires the establishment of mutual and stable partnership.

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