Why learning Chinese is the secret to success for your business in China

Why learning Chinese is the secret to success for your business in China
Why learning Chinese is your secret to success in China
Why learning Chinese is your secret to success for your business in China

A sagacious interest in learning Chinese languages is your secret to success for growing your business in China. In the face of fierce competition in the China market, knowing some Mandarin and Cantonese language can put you ahead of your competitors.

You might know that New Zealand was the first developed country to recognise China as a Market Economy and the first country to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China. New Zealand businesses have built a solid reputation as trusted trading partners with China and for a long period have enjoyed this advantage over other countries. You might also know that New Zealand was also the first country to agree China’s accession to the Word Trade Organisation (WTO) by concluding the bilateral negotiation component of that process (and there might be more facts you are interested in from New Zealand Foreign Affairs & Trade)! But have you considered how advantageous it might be to acquire insights into Chinese business language and etiquette?

China is now the fastest developing nation and is already the second largest economy of the world (after the US). This growth is creating a ‘rush’ from multiple countries worldwide. Learning Chinese languages can assist New Zealand businesses to maintain a competitive advantage for business cooperation with enterprises in China making an important contribution to New Zealand’s place at the forefront of the line-up of developed countries in China.

You don’t even necessarily need to be proficient in Chinese language. However, by showing that you’ve been making efforts in learning Chinese language and Chinese people, you will definitely build up a better company reputation in China market and achieve a deeper understanding into your target audiences.

Learn Chinese language and know your customers better

Buyers’ behaviour is always a big part of designing products and services for your markets. You need to understand who is your customer and in what scenario they will likely buy your product. To help you know your customers, it will be easier if you know a bit about their languages and culture. Being able to express Chinese buyers’ behaviour using some key Chinese linguistic phrases is your secret to let you in to the Chinese mindset, motivations, cultural traits and behaviours.

Risk avoidance is an example of a cultural trait in China. It is referred to as “Feng Xian Gui Bi” (风险规避), which relates to the level of uncertainty or ambiguity a person will prefer. In China, people tend to have higher level of risk avoidance, preferring safe options. For example Chinese people will strongly prefer to buy products and services with a solid money back guarantee if they are not satisfied with an outcome. Doing business in China, you need to take risk avoidance into consideration and knowing some language and concepts in Chinese can help you more accurately frame your perception of how your customers may think, feel and behave. This will help you be prudent in evaluating your audience and positioning your product and services.


Learn Chinese to effortlessly navigate Chinese social media

Chinese social media
Chinese social media

Knowing the names of the major Chinese social media and payment gateways will help you understand and navigate conversations around the Chinese social media business architecture. Did you know that 71% of payments made last year in China were via mobile methods? Chinese consumers spent US$5.5 trillion via mobile payment platforms in 2016 (China goes cashless with consumers spending $5.5 trillion via mobile payments). So you can really see what is the hottest trend now in China. And just like Western countries, social media is increasing rapidly in China.

For all the popular social media platforms you can find in New Zealand, there is an exact equivalent in China: And social media platforms dominate the whole China market. Chinese consumers use Weibo (微博) instead of Twitter, Wechat (微信) instead of Facebook and WhatsApp, and numerous video platforms like Youku (优酷), iQIYI (爱奇艺), Letv (乐视), PPlive (聚力视频) instead of Youtube.

It is always challenging to study a new group of customers, but if you know their language, you can get customer insights more efficiently than your competitors. An inspiring NZTE blog shows how New Zealand business can win a social media campaign in China. Imagine how convenient and efficient it would be if you can easily handle these platforms in Chinese!

Learn Chinese language and cultivate your business acumen

Business is business world-wide, and in China, the business culture is changing rapidly. However, there is still a strong grasp on traditional paradigms: For example the concepts of Communism, hierarchy in relationships and ‘rules’ or traditions of business. Understanding how to express some of these in Chinese will not only command you respect as a business person in China, you will actually acquire a more authentic understanding of the way of business protocols and etiquette in Chinese business culture.

Communism “Gong Chan Zhu Yi” (共产主义) 

Although China is a communist country, there is a rapidly growing middle class and this new demographic and associated lifestyle is introducing new ways of thinking into China mainstream. Then there are the Special Administrative Regions (特别行政区) ‘SARS’ – HongKong, Macau and Taiwan. These areas allow for discrete socio-economic and political structures. The economy in Hong Kong is fully capitalist, with a huge energy and lightening fast pace of business life. In Macau, many people will find advantages for types of economic activity that are not accepted in mainstream China, akin to Las Vegas in the US.

The “visible hand”  – “You Xing De Shou” (有形的手) 

“You Xing De Shou” (有形的手) refers to the government in China. In China, the government is very controlling and powerful in all aspects of running a business. In terms of market structure, for some industry sectors the percentage of state-owned, private, and foreign-owned enterprises is strictly controlled. You can begin to see how your command of key aspects of Chinese languages and related business culture are the secret to your success by improving your position as a foreign-owned enterprise in China.

Market failure – “Shi Chang Shi Ling” (市场失灵)

Where there is a “Shi Chang Shi Ling” (市场失灵), or perceived risk for failure, the extent that government will intervene in the market is stronger than other countries. We have seen an example just last week, where the Chinese government forced closure of exchanges trading in Bitcoin has caused a global impact, sending the Bitcoin markets into free-fall by the end of the week (although the markets have since partly recovered).

China is now an integral part of worldwide markets and as reported in Feng Huang Technology “Bitcoin exchanges in China are forced to close..” the VGA computer graphics card industry will be one of those impacted. You can see how acquiring Chinese business savvy will place you in the best position to succeed in your business in China.

Learn Chinese and do business like a local
Learn Chinese and do business like a local

Learn Chinese to acquire the art of developing successful business relationships

Learn Chinese to acquire the art of developing successful business relationships
Learn Chinese to acquire the art of developing successful business relationships

In the same way, cooperation between businesses is better understood through unique Chinese concepts that are not easily expressed in English. Believe me, your business partner will be favourably surprised if you say “wo hen gao xing lai dao zhong guo” (I’m glad to come to China) rather than simply “ni hao” (hello).  Chinese people are open, friendly and intuitive. Your business partner will feel your sincerity in cooperation when they listen to your Chinese because they will see your efforts in understanding their language and culture!

Successful business partnerships are based on mutual understanding forged through both verbal and non-verbal communication protocols. By knowing each other’s language, you will be on a more equal playing field with your prospective business partner. Learning Chinese languages will propel you forwards in your quest to develop your Chinese business acumen, achieve greater impact and lock-in more favourable outcomes in your business negotiations.

“Guanxi” (关系) – Relationship

“Guanxi” (关系) is the word in Chinese language to describe a relationship. In addition to saying ‘hello’, there are more important and in-depth business linguistic elements and etiquettes affecting the success of your relationship.

As an example, exchanging gifts in China is an important part of business etiquette! In any business visit, both parties are likely to prepare a gift for each other. In particular, where the meeting is between a Chinese business and an international business, Chinese business delegates always like to prepare some gifts with a traditional Chinese meaning. And they would also be happy to receive some special gift from you!

There is so much more to Chinese business protocol and etiquette. For example, do you know what is the most appropriate distance between two persons in a business meeting? Do you know that business in China is sometimes conducted during meals? Do you know the character of personal relationship in Chinese businesses? By building your capability in speaking Chinese language alongside your savviness in Chinese business culture you will definitely put yourself ahead of your competition!

So, start learning Chinese language in time to wow your new business partner, and develop a better “Guanxi” for your future success!


Learn Chinese and build empathy to strengthen your business relationships

Learn Chinese and build empath to strengthen your business relationships
Learn Chinese and build empath to strengthen your business relationships

Many foreign business owners in China feel frustrated by the how businesses are administered in China. For both the foreign company representatives and Chinese business partners, it is easy to find mis-communications and mis-understanding leads to a breakdown of trust in the relationship. One example of a process that can cause frustration is the heavy requirement for paperwork for many business operations.

“Xing Zheng Wen Shu” (行政文书) – Administrative paperwork

The administrative burden of business in China can be high, as an example, “Xu Ke Zheng” (许可证) permits are frequently required. This is part of the comprehensive approach to business by the government in China, although feeling counter-intuitive at first, learning and fostering an appreciation for the way things are done will increase your trust in your Chinese business partners. For example, a foreign company running an event will be given a list of items that may and may not be included in a public address by the permit issuer. These rules should be respected as it is your Chinese event co-organisers who stake their reputation to acquire and vouch for your company permits.

You can see how your command of key aspects of Chinese languages is the secret to your success by improving your understanding of business protocols and building empathy to strengthen your relationships with your Chinese counterparts.


Learn Chinese language and culture today!

At the current time and looking ahead, China and New Zealand are in a superb business relationship. Tourism in New Zealand has jumped ahead to become the lead export sector for New Zealand this year. Chinese people love to visit New Zealand and visitor numbers are predicted to significantly increase year on year. At the same time, China has opened its giant domestic-facing market to the world and put on the table the best policies it has ever had. This means the time is ripe to kickstart your Chinese language learning and acquire new insights into Chinese markets and consumer behaviours. There are 300 million middle class population now in China, and this number is predicted to grow to 500 to 600 million in the next 10 to 15 years (For those of you who are interested, check how Jack Ma, the executive chairman of Alibaba Group, explained the China opportunity at Gateway ’17). This is an indication of huge demand in high-quality goods and services.

To impress your prospective Chinese business partners now it the time to start learning Chinese languages alongside formal business protocols and etiquette! Understand and prepare yourself and your business to enter into China and build your business on the second largest international stage. To seize this incredible market opportunity in China and stand out among your competitors, you should indulge the perspicacious in you and really start with learning Chinese language and developing your Chinese business acumen and awareness.

Lock in your lessons with Andrea to start your journey in Chinese language and business culture now, or find out more about how to succeed in learning Chinese language and Chinese business culture with Kivorra!

Author: Sihan Wang


Leave a Reply