Business Etiquette in China

Proper Business Behavior in China
Proper Business Behavior in China

If you've booked a business trip to China, you need to learn the proper business etiquette in China in order to succeed on your trip and in order to make a good impression on those who are doing business with.

Basic Business Etiquette in China

The first key to making a good impression is knowing how to address your colleagues.

The Proper Way to Address Colleagues

In China, you address individuals by their family name only. For example, you would greet your new colleague as Mr. Chen instead of calling him "Steve." The format of the name is also different than it is in many other countries. The family name, or the last name, is first and that is followed by the first, or the personal name. For the previuos example, your colleague or client would be introduced as "Chen Steve."

Using titles shows respect and is highly valued in Chinese etiquette. Always an individual by his or her work title along with his family name. If Chen Steve was the director of the project, you should refer to him as "Director Chen." Further, you should expect to be addressed the same way. Do not insist on being called by your first name. Your Chinese counterparts may be uncomfortable with this breach of etiquette.

Shaking Hands and Bowing

When you greet your colleagues, you can shake their hands. However, Chinese people usually greet each other with a small nod or a slight bow. It would be acceptable if you did tbowed too.

Etiquette For Business Meetings

You also need to know the proper business etiquette in China for business meetings if you want to make a good impression. In China, the first person to enter a room is assumed to be the director, or the head, of the group. If you're seated, note who walks in first. He or she is the head of the group you're working with and should be treated with respect.

The actual meeting always begins with small talk instead of business. Don't insist on discussing business right away, and do not tell jokes at the meeting. Allow the small talk to flow naturally.

If you exchange business cards with a Chinese businessman, you need to hold the business card out with the writing facing the individual to whom you are giving the card. You can never toss your business card on a table. That's considered rude. If there's a large group of people, share your card with everyone, even if only one person needs it. To hand out only one is also considered rude. Always read the information on a business card; it's considered rude to put it away without reading it.


In certain situations, it's appropriate to present a Chinese business man or woman with a gift. Usually this gift should represent the place you come from. A gift is a sign of respect and a sign of desire to continue the relationship and is good business etiquette in China.

Never present a Chinese business person with an unwrapped gift, however. The gift should always be wrapped as a matter of politeness. However, do not wrap the gift in black or white wrapping paper, as those are the colors of mourning in China.

When you give the gift, present the gift with both hands to the business person and state that the gift is "a small token of appreciation." The gift will most likely not be opened in front of you.

Additionally, there are certain things that you should never give. You should never give a clock, a handkerchief, an umbrella, or any white flowers. All these objects represent death in the Chinese culture. The number four is also considered unlucky, so avoid gifts imprinted with that number.

Social Functions

If there is a business social event you need to attend or if you are invited to a Chinese colleague's house for dinner, there are other traditions that you must understand. Try every dish that your host serves. To pass it by without sampling at least a bite is a dishonor to your host. Second, you should always leave some food on your plate at the end of the night. If you continually "clean your plate," this means that you are still hungry in China. If it is a Chinese business banquet that you are attending, you might also be expected to give a short speech, so be prepared.

Learning Business Etiquette

In an increasingly global culture, learning the proper business etiquette and rules for different countries is essential. In China, the business economy is growing, and it is likely that you may end up working with a Chinese company at some point in your career. Failing to behave in a way that is appropriate for the country you are in can be detrimental to the business relationship.

Was this page useful?
Related & Popular
Business Etiquette in China