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Understand the Chinese side in your negotiations

by Renaud Anjoran in 'Quality Inspection Blog'

There are frequent misunderstandings between importers and their Chinese suppliers, and they could be avoided if the purchaser placed himself in his supplier’s shoes from time to time.

Andrew Hupert came up with an excellent reminded in American Negotiating Culture – Through the Eyes of the Chinese Counterparty. He describes the American style, but most of his points are also valid, to some extent, for Europeans and Australians.

Here are a few differences that are often shocking to Chinese negotiators:

Americans believe that negotiations end. To Chinese, the negotiation is part-and-parcel of the business relationship. As long as the counterparties are still engaged in business, the negotiation is supposed to continue. What’s the point of taking the time to build a connection if you aren’t going to grow the relationship through continuous give and take?

Americans want to decide everything in advance and put procedures ahead of human decisions. Chinese (and most other Asian) negotiators understand that conflict and differences of opinion are inevitable, and their business agreements usually assume that the leaders or concerned parties from each side will work things out informally. American contracts, with their penalty clauses and rigid requirements, are not only insulting and arbitrary, but seem designed to undermine any kind of positive relationship.

Have you ever wondered why some Chinese suppliers keep increasing prices for what seems like irrelevant excuses? It looks dishonest to you, but in their eyes it was to be expected.

That’s why I always advise purchasers to come to China regularly and hold face-to-face meetings with all their key suppliers at least every six months. Informal discussions go a long way, and they are only possible after you have build a human relationship.

Americans love deadlines, timetables and schedules, even when there is no business rationale for them. They can be arbitrary and illogical.

Yes, insisting on signing on a shipment date will make your supplier uncomfortable. BUT, if they are used to dealing with export customers, they should be the ones who adapt to you rather than the opposite!

Most disturbing of all, American negotiators are adversarial and rude. We insist on running everything and taking control of situations that we don’t understand.

This is a big one. You should always be reasonably friendly. Screaming on a supplier is like giving him the finger, and it means he will HATE you forever.

Anybody has other examples of cultural disconnects?


Renaud Anjoran is the founder of Sofeast Quality Control and helps importers to improve and secure their product quality in China. He writes advice for importers on the Quality Inspection blog. He lives full time in Shenzhen, China. You can contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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