Thoughts on cultural understanding when doing business in China

Is it very important to know Chinese culture and protocol to be successful in doing business in China?

Depends. My personal opinion is that it depends a lot on what kind of business you are doing.  If you want to sell something in China, of course you have to know something about Chinese culture, because you need to understand the market and buyers.  But if you are buying from China, I don’t think it’s a “must”.  After all, culture is a very complicated phenomenon, especially for China, a nation with more than 2000 years history and more than 50 ethnicities.  Difference between different regions, such as north and south, coastal regions and inner cities are also gigantic.  There are some items to avoid. No talk about politics and religions during dinner, neither should you talk about sensitive topics, such as Taiwan or Japan issues in China.

Keep in mind that if you are the buyer, then the money and power is in your pocket and it is the selling side (Chinese factory) that probably needs to be more worried about culture and protocol than you do. So relax.

Written for CSIC by Sophie Mao

China based lawyer at


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