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Developing business relationships

1. Research professional, academic and (even) personal backgrounds

Be aware of your prospective client's professional, academic and even personal background before you contact or start negotiations with them.

For example, you may be able to apply some Western business practices when dealing with Chinese who speak English well. They may have studied or lived overseas; worked with foreigners on behalf of the Chinese government or enterprises; or have worked in the Chinese office or branch of a multinational company. You may feel more comfortable and relaxed when co-operating with these people.

On the other hand, when dealing with Chinese with limited Western experience, you may need to penetrate the superficial level of any discussion to explore the true expectation of your partner or client. You will also need to show your full respect and co-operation, so that the cultural wall can be broken down.

2. Take a long-term approach to building relationships

Approach a possible business partnership with a view to it being a serious, long term arrangement based on a very good relationship, with legal and emotional ties that bind for a very long time. There is no substitute for slowly developing the relationship with potential partners. As the relationship develops so will further trust and understanding.

3. Identify the decision-maker

When establishing a business relationship, try to find the person who is in a position to make decisions. Otherwise, negotiations will go on indefinitely.

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Sara Cheng
Senior Manager, China Practice
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Mike Liu
China Trade Advisor
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