Intercultural Communication Business Practices in China


The business environment is widespread nowadays, meaning that many organizations go international and operate in many countries. These organizations may do their businesses worldwide or cooperate with their foreign business partners. Managing a multinational corporation requires applying intercultural communications practices because different cultures have different views and ways of communicating with others. For a company that wants to succeed globally, it is vital to conduct proper intercultural communication to achieve the best results. However, the intercultural communication business practices vary in different countries due to their own cultural and economic features. The purpose of this work is to examine those practices in China to compare and contrast them. The paper includes a general discussion of the Chinese business environment, specificities of Chinese intercultural business communication, and corresponding strategies for success. There is also a comparative analysis of China and the United States and their cultural features that can impact intercultural business communication. The research results show that China has a complex culture that can significantly impact intercultural business interaction outcomes because foreign representatives should be accurate and thoughtful for their venture to succeed.

Chinese Business Environment

As it is known, China is a large country with a socialistic philosophy, meaning that the government mainly controls the national economy. It oversees the business sector and supervises every business aspect of the country (Li, 1996). The Chinese government supports industries that produce export goods, subsidizes technological advancement, and encourages developing initiatives (Li, 1996). China appears to be an economically independent country primarily relying on domestic production because the Chinese government has no discussions with foreigners on new business regulations and policies (Li, 1996). Therefore, intercultural business communication in China is complicated because a foreign organization will likely have to accept the suggested terms without an opportunity to get any benefits.

However, everything mentioned above does not mean that doing business with Chinese companies or on the Chinese territory is impossible. Suppose a foreign organization wants to make investments in China for non-Chinese products. The organization is likely to confront the Chinese business policies since the government will not discuss any new regulations, as mentioned above. Nonetheless, the planned investments are highly profitable for the organization under discussion, meaning that they must find a way to deal with the potential issues. According to Li (1996), the most efficient method of making accurate investments in China involves having a local Chinese consultant or business partner. They will have to work constantly to obtain documents approving the project, or projects, of the organization under discussion (Li, 1996). They will also need to be close with local authorities at multiple levels to obtain required clearances or approvals in case of necessity (Li, 1996). Such consultants and partners have acknowledged the internal structure of the Chinese business environment and its specificities, making them helpful assistants while investing in Chine for non-Chinese goods.

Communication Process in China: Possible Issues

Despite the facts mentioned in the previous section, the current economic situation has opened innovative ways to do business globally. For instance, the number of global companies worldwide has significantly increased recently, and they are actively developing (Jiao et al., 2020a). China is no exception because its economy has been increasingly opening up and globalizing, inviting more international business practitioners (Jiao et al., 2020a). For their businesses to be more efficient, they have to apply intercultural business communication, which is widespread throughout the entire business process and independent of the specific industry (Jiao et al., 2020a). It is especially significant for the Chinese business environment because, as mentioned before, the Chinese government does not discuss any new policies or regulations in the business sector. Therefore, it is incredibly challenging for a foreign organization to make a deal regarding investments in China. Any mistakes in intercultural business communication may aggravate the complex negotiation process and lead to undesirable or even unacceptable results.

Avoiding those mistakes requires addressing specific points when communicating with Chinese international business practitioners. These include negative emotions, foreign language anxiety, cultural diversity, and language and communication issues, leading to stress, frustration, or negative attitude (Jiao et al., 2020b). Being a member of a specific culture means that communication with people from another culture has particular barriers (Lázár, 2017). They are obstacles to efficient communication and include environmental features, ethnic and social differences, lack of similar experiences in life, personal feelings, and more (Lázár, 2017). If the negotiators do not consider those barriers, they risk engaging in inappropriate intercultural business communication, which may become a deal-breaker and cause the failure of the cooperation (Jiao et al., 2020b). On the whole, understanding those barriers and applying specific strategies in business communication with the Chinese is essential for the success of any deal.

Strategies for Success in Communication with Chinese

Several business strategies address specificities of intercultural business communication with the Chinese and can ensure the success of international business ventures. A successful business deal follows learning about Chinese people and applying that knowledge to business communication (Li, 1996). First, it is vital to establish a network with formal institutions instead of direct solicitation because the local officials will be involved in the business plan (Li, 1996). Second, China may have many confusing temporary regulations concerning foreign businesses, but they have to follow them and be patient to succeed (Li, 1996). Third, business deals with China may be time-consuming because of their bureaucracy and everchanging laws and economy, so foreign business practitioners have to take their time (Li, 1996). Fourth, negotiators should be accurate and thoughtful about what they say and be good listeners since saying something wrong or being inattentive might shatter Chinese trust (Li, 1996). Finally, the Chinese do not value self-promotion and admire knowledge, capabilities, and modesty along with a respectful attitude, meaning that a person with those qualities will gain their trust (Li, 1996). These strategies are the best way to successful business negotiations with the Chinese.

The points described above show the complexity of intercultural business communication with the Chinese. There are many significant aspects that negotiators should always keep in mind while attending business meetings and having conversations with the Chinese. According to Lázár (2017), neglecting cultural differences may fail international enterprises. However, following the strategies mentioned previously can guarantee the successful outcomes of business cooperation. Learning Chinese and understanding their values is vital for intercultural business communication with them.

China and the United States in Comparison

The United States was chosen for this paper’s comparative section to show the cultural differences that may impact intercultural business communication. First, the primary difference between China and the United States is their business orientation (Braslauskas, 2020). The culture of North America, including the United States, is focused primarily on business affairs, while the Chinese culture is focused on mutual relations (Braslauskas, 2020). Chinese prefer to work with people and organizations well-known for them, avoiding foreigners as they can (Braslauskas, 2020). On the contrary, the United States has the most business-oriented culture globally, and its representatives are easy to deal with because the US business interaction is pragmatic and straightforward (Braslauskas, 2020). Therefore, with China being one of the most complex cultures for business communication and the US being the simplest one, these countries represent entirely different cultures from the business interaction viewpoint.


The complicated culture of China requires representatives of foreign business to show accuracy and thoughtfulness because intercultural business communication might fail otherwise. The Chinese government has almost total control of the internal business sector, and they never discuss new policies or regulations when communicating with foreigners. Doing business with the Chinese is a complex process because, in most cases, it requires a local consultant to contact the local officials continually. However, that process has become easier recently because the Chinese economy has been globalizing and opening up. Nonetheless, it is vital to address various communicational barriers that may occur in the business interaction with the Chinese. These barriers include negative emotions, cultural diversity, communication issues, and others. There are particular strategies for business communication with the Chinese, and following those strategies can guarantee a positive outcome of the negotiations. The comparison with the United States has shown that China has a highly peculiar culture. A deeper investigation of the impact of their specificities on business interaction may lead to new efficient strategies and techniques to deal with Chinese representatives.


Braslauskas, J. (2020). Effective creative intercultural communication in the context of business interaction: theoretical and practical aspects. Creativity studies, 13(1), 199-215.

Jiao, J., & Xu, D. (2020a). The Status Quo of Chinese International Business Practitioners’ Intercultural Business Communication and Pedagogic Implications. Management, 8(1), 14-19. doi: 10.17265/2328-2185/2020.01.002

Jiao, J., Xu, D., & Zhao, X. (2020b). The development and validation of an intercultural business communication competence scale: Evidence from Mainland China. SAGE Open, 10(4).

Lázár, T. (2017). Some sources of misunderstandings in intercultural business communication. International Journal of Engineering and Management Sciences, 2(3), 91-101. doi: 10.21791/IJEMS.2017.3.9

Li, J. (1996). Passport: China. San Rafael: World Trade Press.

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