As many know, the Chinese have a special attitude to business cards. Almost everyone owns one or more. Many Chinese people have their business card representing their company. Nevertheless they may additionally give you their personal one.
Anyway, in the world of business, business cards are a must. Make sure to bring the right amount with you in order to suffice for the meetings you have scheduled. It is also highly recommendable to have both English and Chinese version, or simply have one side of the business card in English and the reverse side in Chinese. The point is that your “Chinese” business card may help in breaking the ice especially if you have a Chinese name: this will allow you to gain your interlocutor’s attention.
The Chinese love keeping in touch, and in the recent years business cards have partially been digitalized, especially among the young generations. QQ and Weixin (Wechat)’s QR code connect people with one scan, and they get linked to with a click without risking to lose the paper version of a business card!
During certain informal situations, such as e.g. a meeting with friends or a personal meeting, you have to be prepared to have your QR code, which can be scanned by your partner. Do not forget that the Wechat platform is often used as a quick way of communicating and exchanging information: even information related to business or commercial matters.
No business cards?! Attention!
It may occasionally happen to you that a Chinese person won’t have a business card to exchange with you. This happens normally when the person is a real VIP, thus he/she won’t need a business card because they are already quite well-known. Generally speaking, the real decision makers stay backstage, and they won't have a title on their business cards and won’t need to show off their status. Don't panic and just hand in your business card with both your hands as a sign of respect. You might have already found the strategic person in the company.
Chop or Signature?
The cultural gap between Chinese and western mentality is remarkable even when signing agreements and contracts. The cultural value of a signature is different considering the fact that the Chinese regard this moment as being only a trustable step to begin a mutual truthful cooperation. Anyway, from a legal point of view, it is fundamental that the agreement holds the most valid information. In European countries, a contract signed by the legal representative of a company validates the agreement, but in China, the signature itself bears no authority unless it is validated by the Company Seal.
A company seal is a seal that is compulsory for any Chinese registered company and has to be registered in the Public Security Bureau.
There are several types of seals, each with a specific purpose. The most powerful and important is the company seal which is normally used to sign official binding documents. Generally, it is round shaped and can be red or blue. It also has the registered name of the company on top and it is normally locked: there is one person who is in charge of the chop and reports its use.
There are also other types of seals, and in general, each department (in big companies especially), has its own. Thus, you will also need a “Financial Seal”, to sign any financial transaction, a “Contract Chop” for signing contracts, and an “Invoice Seal” for validating official receipts.
Is your company’s presentation effective?
When you decide to establish contacts within Chinese market, one of the most common questions that needs to be asked is how to prepare attractive materials and information documents for the Chinese.
You should consider to provide as much information as possible in brochures, leaflets and information materials, in order to build your own “reputation” and “face”: this value is highly appreciated by the Chinese (not only just in the business domain).
Besides, the most relevant information such as core business, location, turnover and subsidiaries, there are some other aspects that may be relevant for your Chinese partners.
If your company has a long history, this should be emphasized since it is recognized as being trustworthy and reliable partner. Pictures of your company environment can be enclosed as well.
Credits, such as information on the past and present cooperation, pictures of high-level management, and awards shall be included as ways of gaining “face” towards your Chinese potential partner.
Referring to colours and layouts, it is highly recommended to customize them considering the sector and target: for example, if you deal with high quality brands in fashion, you may consider to create appealing and fashionable documentations. The two most auspicious colours in the Chinese culture are red and gold, and you may consider using them when preparing the material for your partners. Red is a synonym for power, authority and prosperity, while gold was historically the colour that symbolized the imperial family.
Obviously, all content has to be carefully translated into Chinese!
Kai-Alexander Schlevogt - The Art of Chinese Management: Theory, Evidence and Applications Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA | 2002-06-15 | ISBN: 0195136446
Chris Torrens, “Doing Business in China: A Guide to the Risks and the Rewards”, John Wiley & Sons Inc (13 July 2010)
Scott D. Seligman, “Chinese Business Etiquette: A Guide to Protocol, Manners, and Culture in the People's Republic of China” ,
James McGregor, “One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China”, Free Press; Reprint edition (2007)