How to Import From China – Doing Business the Chinese Way

Starting an import export business with businessmen in China requires not only the standard knowledge of this business but requires an in-depth familiarity of the Chinese style of doing business. For companies or individuals who want to import from China, it is essential that they will be guided on the right business etiquette.

1. Be patient.

It might seem frustrating to go slow when business means deadlines and speedy transactions especially when there are import export business opportunities that need to be grabbed as quickly as possible before another businessman gets to it first. It has not been too long since China has entered the international market. Many Chinese businessmen as well as their government still lack the experience to make international business deals. Negotiations can be quick or slow depending on how they look at the risks of the transaction and on how strong they have established relationships with the foreign company.

2. Build up a relationship.

A strong and secure business relationship in Chinese business starts with personal relationships that go through a security and trust validation before it progresses to business. It is not only the money or the business that is the primary consideration in relationships; it entails trustworthiness, dependability and understanding. Cultivating a personal relationship will give foreign businessmen a better chance of having profitable import business transactions with China businessmen. Majority of Chinese companies put value on secure and low risk business negotiations and only do business with businessmen who have undergone their test of personal character strength.

3. Understand the importance of nurturing “guanxi”

Guanxi, in its literal meaning, is relationships. It is a network of relationships of companies and individuals involved in the business transactions. The right guanxi will determine whether the business relationship will prosper and be successful. Building guanxi with the government will eventually determine how competitive your company will be in its business transactions in China. For the Chinese businessmen, guanxi is honor, making good on promises, courteous treatments, frequent contacts, trustworthiness and giving them face with respect and loyalty. Since guanxi is fragile, it should be nurtured in order for a successful import business relationship to last.

4. Have local contacts

Foreign companies or their representatives who negotiate with Chinese businessmen to import products from China will only be regarded by these businessmen to be on the same level if they speak Chinese, respect and follow their unique way of doing business and have a strong Chinese connection. An import export expert, a local or any person who has successfully worked with Chinese businessmen will be the only ones who will understand how to handle the decision makers and be able to tackle the issues involved in import business transactions in China. The best team would be local representatives and the foreign visitors whose visit will be perceived by the Chinese partners as giving them honor and proving their sincerity and commitment to the business relationship.

5. Be cautious with contracts.

Chinese and foreign businessmen have different business systems and etiquette. The Western businessmen see contracts as the seal on the transaction, binding both parties to what was agreed upon. For the Chinese, presenting a contract at the beginning of negotiations is frowned upon and is never indicative of a commitment. Commitments and obligations are based on relationships and not on the pieces of paper. Contracts may be signed just to comply with formalities of the transaction or to humor the western partners. Again, be patient and in time, the transaction will be sealed and consummated.

Local experts know the tricks of the trade that may or may not work with the import export business or with the businessmen they are dealing with. Those who have in-depth knowledge of the business culture are able to work out the intricacies and know whether what has been negotiated and contracted is what is to be expected and delivered. Getting expert advice will be cost-efficient and ensure success in the long run.

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