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Chinese Business - Chinese Business Meeting Etiquette

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Chinese Etiquette - Chinese Business Meetings

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his Japanese counterpart Yukio Hatoyama hold a meeting in Tokyo May 31, 2010 in Tokyo, Japan.

Kazuhiro Nogi / Getty Images
From setting up a meeting to formal negotiations, learn the proper Chinese business protocol.

Setting Up a Chinese Business Meeting:

When setting up a Chinese business meeting, it is important to send as much information to your Chinese counterparts in advance. Including details about the topics to be discussed and background inforamtion on your company ensures that the people you want to meet will actually attend the meeting.

However, preparing in advance will not get you confirmation of the actual meeting’s day and time. It is not uncommon to wait anxiously to the last minute for confirmation. The Chinese prefer waiting until a few days before or even the day of the meeting to confirm the time and place.

Arrival at a Chinese Business Meeting:

Be on time. Arriving late is considered rude. If you do arrive late, apologizing for your tardiness is a must.

If you are hosting the meeting, it is proper etiquette to send a representative to meet the meeting’s participants outside the building or in the lobby and personally escort them to the meeting room. The host should be waiting in the meeting room to greet all meeting attendants.

The senior-most guest should enter the meeting room first. While entrance by rank is a must during high level government meetings, it is becoming less formal for regular business meetings.

Chinese Business Meeting Seating Arrangements:

After handshakes and the exchange of business cards, guests take their seats. The seating is typically arranged by rank. The host should escort the senior-most guest to his or her seat as well as any VIP guests.

The place of honor is to the host’s right on a sofa or in chairs that are opposite the room’s doors. If the meeting is held around a large conference table, then the guest of honor is seated directly opposite the host. Other high ranking guests sit in the same general area while the remainder of the guests can choose their seats from among the remaining chairs.

If the meeting is held around a large conference table, all the Chinese delegation may opt to sit on one side of the table and foreigners on the other. This is especially true for formal meetings and negotiations. The principal delegates are seated in the meeting with lower ranking attendees placed at either end of the table.

Discussing Business at a Chinese Business Meeting:

Meetings usually begin with small talk to help both sides feel more comfortable. After a few moments of small talk, there is a short welcoming speech from the host followed by discussion of the meeting’s topic.

During any conversation, the Chinese will often nod their heads or make affirmative utterances. These are signals that they are listening to what is being said and understand what is being said. These are not agreements to what is being said.

Do not interrupt during the meeting. Chinese meetings are highly structured and interjecting beyond a quick remark is considered rude. Also, don’t put anyone on the spot by asking them to provide information they seem unwilling to give or challenge a person directly. Doing so will lead them to become embarrassed and lose face.

Learn more about Chinese Etiquette.

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