Doing Business with China: The Importance of Culture

Want the inside scoop on best practices for doing business with China? Want to make sure that you avoid miscommunications and awkward interactions when working with representatives of Chinese businesses or your co-workers in China? In order to answer these questions and promote career development among students, the USF Center for Asia Pacific Studies invited leading industry experts to campus on Nov. 8, 2019 to participate in, “US-China Intercultural Communication for Business.”

The student workshop featured panelists David Chen (Former Senior VP, Microsoft, China,  Former Senior VP, GM China), Lin Xie (USF alum and Private Client Advisor, Vice President, East West Bank), and Breaux Walker (SVP Blockchain, Former Managing Partner, Union Mobile FINTECH, Shanghai) sharing their experiences working in China and/or with Chinese businesses and organizations. 

The center invited Prof. Stanley Kwong (adjunct faculty, University of San Francisco) to use his extensive network of contacts to help organize and serve as moderator for the workshop. Prof. Kwong kicked off the event with a brief presentation on how to do business with China. According to Kwong, since China will surpass the US as the world’s biggest consumer market in 2019, it is important for students interested in doing business in China to understand how Chinese business culture differs from the American culture. Kwong stressed that while language is important in bridging an intercontinental relationship, the cultural expectations and etiquette behind the language are even more essential.

In part two of the workshop, Kwong invited the panelists to share their experiences working in China. Topics discussed included practical advice for students on meeting and working with representatives from a Chinese company, and what they have learned from being in the business. Students were particularly interested in learning information from these professionals that is not often taught in class. Speakers shared interesting experiences they had interacting with their counterparts in Chinese businesses. Students learned about the continuing importance of Confucianism in Chinese society, the concept of “face”,  the importance of networking and having connections in order to gain access to people and land job opportunities, and Chinese communication styles. Panelists also commented on the differences between Chinese and American work culture and the importance of interacting with co-workers and clients after hours. Since there is no clear definition between work and private life in Chinese organizations, panelists stressed that this is why it is so important to have good relations with those you are interacting with. Panelists also encouraged students seeking to learn more about Chinese culture to consider working with organizations outside of the first tiered cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai.

The workshop is a continuation of the center’s mission of building cultural bridges across the Pacific. Thanks to the generosity of one of the center’s donors, the center was able to provide this event to students free of charge.