Doing Business in China

Know the rules before you play the game

Nowadays, it is globally acknowledged that China are soon to become the next world superpower. Its rapid development over such a short period of time have quickly left other countries behind, and have left the currently dominant U.S.A shaking in their boots. What’s more exciting is the number of UK companies who are venturing out to do business in China. Over the last 10 years, UK-China trade has doubled from just under £30 billion, to £60 billion in 2018. China are now the UK’s third-largest trading partner, which is only bound to increase.

However, culturally China and the UK are miles apart. The Chinese way of life is extremely contrasting to that of an everyday Brit, especially within a business context. It is therefore crucial for UK businesses to learn more about the weird and wonderful Chinese market, and how to best act in order to create maximum benefit. Here are just a few factors to consider when looking to do business in China:

Understanding Chinese culture:

The most important factor when doing business in China is to ensure that you have a healthy knowledge of this divergent Chinese culture. Every country has their own set of values and traditions, and it is vitally important to respect that. China are especially hot on their values and UK businesses are not likely to succeed in Chinese markets if they don’t have a good grasp on Chinese culture. It is essential that UK businesses do not solely rely on Western values and customs when challenging Chinese markets, as although China is progressively experiencing increasing amounts of westernisation, the Chinese commercial arena remains traditional.

One example is branding. It is imperative that you follow a colour-scheme within your branding that will be attractive and meaningful to a Chinese audience. Colours play significant roles even in everyday Chinese life. Red symbolises good fortune and joy, and can be found everywhere during holiday seasons. Green symbolises health, prosperity and harmony, also being the colour of Jade. If your business is associated with a prosperous colour within Chinese culture, it is much more likely to be well-received by Chinese consumers, adding to its already British appeal. UK companies who are well-versed in Chinese cultural traditions and values are the ones who obtain the greatest success.

Emphasis on relationship-building:

Chinese society is very collectivist. At first, it can sometimes be difficult for UK companies to achieve cooperation with Chinese businesses. Within China, companies can sometimes be very exclusive and often family-based only, therefore it can prove challenging to gain their trust and admiration. The Chinese highly regard relationship building before engaging in business. What is most important for them is to really understand the company, or the person they are dealing with, before indulging in potential business.

This emphasis on developing a sense of trust determines the business outcome. One strategy for UK enterprises is to ensure that their company representative operates at a similar level in comparison to the counterpart Chinese representative. Chinese society is hierarchical, and company decisions are typically made in a top-down manner. By sending someone of a similar age or formal position to make contact with the Chinese company, it helps to put both parties at ease, and a relationship can easily start to develop.

Understanding Chinese law:

Chinese law is tricky, complicated and very contrasting to that of the West. When entering any foreign business environment, it is essential to understand the ‘rules of the game’, and China is no different. Your company should take time to understand the many rules and regulations, avoiding any potential problems from arising when out there. It can be extremely beneficial to gain help from others who have successfully ventured to China, or even businesses who specialise in Chinese relations, as this will help to ensure your business operates worry-free.

A number of processes for foreign businesses starting up in China sometimes require many months to complete. These processes and policies are often quite complex, and therefore necessitate a lot of planning and forward-thinking. Ultimately, no decision to open up business in China should be rushed, let alone in any other foreign country!

There are so many opportunities for British companies within Chinese markets, especially due to the inevitable Brexit deal which will eventually come to a close. Getting it right in China can open a vast number of doors for your business, and can help to create a really desirable profit. It is a painfully complex process that requires a lot of blood, sweat and tears (not quite so dramatic), however it is a decision that can be extremely rewarding when done correctly.