The most important concept of doing business in China

Culture difference has been identified as one of the biggest challenges for Western and Chinese business people when conducting business. Let's talk about Chinese business culture, in particular, the concept of 'face'. 

Chinese face is usually the very first concept to be explained when talking about Chinese culture. It is an essential component of the Chinese national psyche; face represents a person’s reputation and feelings of prestige within the workplace, family, friends, and society. Chinese people are acutely senstitve to gaining and maintaining face in all aspects of social and business life. Face is a prized commodity which can be given, lost, taken away or earned.

For instance, an Australian business person attending their boss's presentation may not think twice about openly making an alternate suggestion, or disagreeing. In China, this would be a serious face-losing situation for the boss, and even the company. Not pointing out others’ mistakes and giving credit for others’ good work are both good ways to help others save face.

Tips on how to give face

  • Show respect and trust, especially to people who are more senior or elder
  • Compliment someone's success in public
  • Reciprocate the kindness or hospitality you have been shown

Tips to avoid causing loss face FACE

  • Avoid saying 'no' by using more polite language such as, 'may need more consideration' or 'might be difficult to'
  • Avoid open conflict
  • When providing critical feedback, do it in private


For further information on this topic, or to find out how Council is supporting local businesses engaging with Chinese businesses, feel free to contact Kelly Shi on 9709 9526 or at

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