Author Introduction - So prosperous is this previously 'sleeping giant', that I am hard-pressed to think of a sector of its vast economy that is not booming. Initially, China started out by taking over from the west and filling in the gaps on outstanding products and projects, where the west and the rest of the world were unable to deliver on time. Somewhere, whilst filling in these gaps, the sleeping giant awoke; in a world where she is now set to be the next economic super power.

China defines 'bustling' – with a population of over 1.3 billion people and growing... who wouldn't want to be part of the action? We all want to be near growth and success and with an annual GDP growth rate of more than 10 % per year she has world leaders looking on in awe.

Professionals from the rest of the world are struck by China's success and are flocking to her, for business deals, collaborations and even jobs, often in a bid to experience the rush of the pulsing atmosphere.

If this is something you have ever considered doing, we are going to take a look at what it takes to succeed in China and - how to give yourself the best start possible.

The best way is to get well-informed of the local customs, etiquette and a brief overview of this 'giant'.

Facts: China – at a glance!
Formally referred to as the People's Republic of China (PRC)
Mandarin is the official spoken language even though there are over 70 recognized regional languages in China.
Mainland China is a social republic, ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, under a single party system.
Rapid industrialization has reduced China’s poverty rate from 53% in 1981 to 8% in 2001, in just twenty short years.
While officially declared 'Atheist' by the ruling state party, Buddhism is one of the fastest growing religions in China, with over 600 million followers.
Chinese society is largely built around Confucianism and this is true for the business world.

Confucianism is of much importance and relevance in Chinese society, even today and revolves around the concept of ‘harmonious relationships’ and stresses the importance of ethical, social and moral values. If proper behavior through respect and loyalty are shown in relationships both the family and wider society will benefit from it and run smoothly.
When doing business or working in China; the presence of Confucianism is evident in business practices. You will notice, that public conflict and disrespect is avoided at all costs, to save 'face', also avoiding sudden or loud gestures that may be interpreted as insults.

Quick Facts:

Many factors play into China's continued economic success and while Chinese exports fell sharply during the global economic recession (due the positions of its trading partners), it is important to note that China was never actually declared to be in an official 'recession'.

Foreign Investment: Substantial amounts of foreign investment have been pumped into China, something to the tune of $80 billion USD in 2007, alone. The country itself is reported to own an estimated $1.6 trillion of US securities.
With the largest labor force in the world, while western countries suffer from the perils of decreasing populations and work forces, countries like China and India have this distinct advantage one that will only serve to make them more powerful in the decades to come.
In 2001, China became a member of the World Trade Organization, which has boosted its overall trade in exports/imports—estimated at $851 billion in 2003—by an additional $170 billion a year, earning the status of third largest economy in the world, just behind the US and Japan.

Booming Industries:
China's economy is largely driven by large scale exports and foreign investments which are largely responsible for this type of growth. To see proof of this, you need only look around your home or on your person to see exactly how many of your personal wears sport the 'Made in China' lettering.
Heavy government subsidies in the forms of economic stimulus’ packages have helped safeguard the economy from the recent global recession, the stimulus given, has been larger per unit than that given by the US. Interestingly this has been funded from a surplus carried over from previous years, as opposed to through running a deficit, like the West and the rest of the world.
In particular, the aviation and auto industries continue to expand. As the price of hardware and fuel rises, both consumers and airlines are turning to alternative suppliers to meet their needs at a lower cost. Leading the manufacture for both boeings and airbuses. For both airlines and passengers, the landing costs at airports throughout China have been systematically reduced over the past few years.
The auto-industry has raced ahead of Japan in production numbers and now looks set to take over the US. It is estimated that China’s auto-industry will grow tenfold between now and the year 2030. Here lies huge opportunity, especially given that China seems committed to producing green and clean vehicles, both to cater to the growing worldwide green trend and to sustain their own environment.

Entrepreneurship & Employment;
Most foreigners to China should be mindful of the fact that in China’s thriving and extremely large scale and competitive entrepreneurial culture, starting your own venture would be a challenge, mainly due to cultural issues, language barriers and gaining a working knowledge of the extensive government regulation policy. If you are heading up a new branch or division of an existing and well-established foreign company, then your experience will be different. But you will likely need a fulltime translator at your fingertips – even if you are familiar with the language there are subtle cultural nuances that you will likely not pick up, in both social conversation and business negotiations.

Chinese: Culture & Etiquette
In common with other eastern nations, the Chinese nation has a strong work ethic, respect for their family and the will to honour their families and their legacy in their professional and personal worlds.

I caught up with Bonnie Chan, originally from Vancouver who specializes in cross cultural networking in Toronto, to learn about Chinese social culture in a nutshell.

Working with both new and seasoned Chinese immigrants, Bonnie has learned some vital tips that she has kindly shared with me.

Generally speaking, the social culture in China is conservative and formal. Usually working life, will not involve a social aspect, especially with your colleagues and superiors. 

“China is a country that must be appreciated for her chaos and differences”
While this may sound strange, be prepared and brace yourself for the sheer amount of traffic you will see upon landing in China both mechanical and human! Most first- timers will find this overwhelming and as a consequence get frustrated, increasing their culture shock. While the personal experience may come as a surprise, take time to read, research and prepare yourself.

It’s none of your business…
The professional atmosphere, in most offices, is just that! The atmosphere in each office may differ, for example if there are many foreign workers, but know that it is normal for your Chinese counterparts to remain quiet about their private and family lives. Employees rarely ask their seniors about their home life or spare time habits-this is considered to be bad etiquette, by most.
It is also important to bear in mind that in most professional atmospheres, people are referred to as Mr, Mrs or Sir followed by their last names, use a designation or a position if relevant (professor, lawyer etc) . First names and casual abbreviations are not used in formal contexts such as the workplace.

Unlike in other countries, particularly the West, business and business deals are often done at the dinner table. Here, relationships are developed while your client will observe your mannerisms and personality in a seemingly informal setting and use this information to judge whether or not they would like to work with you.

It is also advised that men do not shy away from their drinks. While a 'no' is accepted by a woman, in a macho business atmosphere it is important for the man to show his tolerance for alcohol and to partake in the groups activities. It is considered rude to turn down a drink (unless due to medical reasons) and it is important not to stand out from the team. The same goes for food; it is considered good manners to taste a little bit of everything that is offered to you. While these may seem like small points, the Chinese will form their impressions about you, based on a number of small points equating to the bigger picture.

As a rule of thumb, if you are unsure about something do not say no flat out, even though it may be your first instinct. The Chinese rarely ever say no, instead they say something softer (I will look into it or we will see what we can do) the spirit of co-operation must stay alive as they like to feel like you have made a 'concession', or a gesture of goodwill that shows how eager you are to work with them.

What to you and I may seem like nothing but casual conversation, may well be offensive to your Chinese counterparts, so it is best to avoid discussing certain topics so as not to sound too bold or cause any controversy: (generally speaking)

Do not praise Japan too much, or compare the two overtly.
Do not praise Shanghai in front of delegates from Beijing or vice versa.
Politics is something to avoid, unless you are very familiar with the systems.

Why is China so successful?
When compared with the west, the Middle East and other parts of the world, China are at an economic advantage.

Every industry and facet of society is highly regulated;
Cultural practices, that to the rest of the world may seem harsh and restrictive serve to promote a robust work ethic;
The largest workforce in the world, both able and willing to strive;
Due to the population numbers, each person is familiar with the concept of fierce competition, making it necessary to fight for every promotion and professional success.
A wealth of geographical climates and locations, perfect for certain industries to flourish in.

The Price of Success:
While the eastern giant continues to grow, success always comes at a price. For while poverty as a whole has decreased, such rapid industrialization has bought a steeper widening of the income gap between rural and urban populations. This has led to a severe decline in the health of the environment and as a consequence, for the inhabitants of that environment. Also, human rights issues remain a hot topic of discussion for the international community whenever the Chinese economy is up for debate. A significant amount of all of China's economic success can be attributed to a relentlessly hardworking, bright and devoted workforce; thriving on competition and doing anything humanly possible to please their bosses. Stories of employees sleeping in their offices and rarely returning home are not as unusual as you might think. Practices that the rest of the world would consider controlling and oppressive remain the norm in China. There continues to be interference with independent press and media outlets. Sadly breaching and compromising the well being of citizens, including curbing individual rights and freedoms comes part and parcel of China’s quest to be the most powerful manufacturing and trade nation.
Competition in the work place is also changing and shaping the social landscape of China. The pressures of work are forcing young people to marry and have families later and later, if at all (contrary to cultural traditions). So, whether China will maintain this demographic advantage in the years to come is something that cannot yet be speculated upon.

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