Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Etiquette for Business in China

Author Sharon Schweitzer in Beijing at the Chinese Real Estate Chamber of Commerce

Business Dress/Appearance

The Mao jacket has gone and conservative professional attire is now seen in the commercial world. Appearance and first impressions are important in Chinese business circles. Wealth is admired. Men and women wearing tailored, well-made suits are considered successful. Men usually wear suits and ties in conservative and neutral colors. 

Most women wear modest suits, pantsuits, dresses or skirts with low two- to three-inch heels. For men and women, lightweight suits are appropriate during the summer and in southern regions. Designer clothing, high-quality shoes, and minimal accessories are recommended. Name brands signify your rank and status in the hierarchy.


Gifts are exchanged at initial and later meetings; coordinate these in advance with an internal source. Purchase more gifts than anticipated for those you may meet unexpectedly. Use both hands to present and receive. More senior members receive different gifts that are not expensive. Beautifully wrap gifts in red or gold; avoid black or white paper.

Business gift ideas include items made domestically and small office items including pens, trays, bowls, and corporate and desk memorabilia. Businesswomen enjoy cosmetics and silk scarves. 

Avoid Scotch, clocks, straw sandals, a stork or crane, or handkerchiefs. 

White and black items represent mourning; scissors, knives, and cutlery represent the severing of relationships.

Introductions, Greetings, Personal Space

In China, greetings include a slight bow of 30 degrees from the shoulders, for three seconds. Observe whether your host offers to shake hands. International businesswomen may need to extend a hand to indicate they are willing to shake hands. Handshakes are not as firm as in the West; expect a softer, briefer handshake. 

Applause may occur as a greeting; applaud in response.

Introductions are formal and usually involve an intermediary. Rank and status determine greeting. Not everyone present may necessarily be greeted or introduced. Chinese stand two arms’ lengths apart and avoid physical contact.

Lower your eyes when bowing.

Holidays and Festivals

Some Chinese holidays are determined by the lunar calendar and change from year to year. Floating holidays are designated with an asterisk. On certain holidays, an office may remain open with limited staff. Check with your embassy or trade office before planning business travel.

Chinese business slows considerably during the Spring Festival. Avoid business visits during this two- to three-week holiday period. 

Chinese Holidays and Festival Dates

January 1–2 New Year’s Day
Late January/February Spring Festival and Chinese New Year∗
April Ching Ming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day)∗
March 8 International Women’s Day
May 1 Labor Day
May 4 Youth Day
June 1 Children’s Day
June Duanwu Festival or Dragon Boat Festival∗
July 1 Anniversary of Founding of the Communist
Party of China
August 1 People’s Liberation Army Day
September Mid-Autumn Festival∗
October 1-3 National Day∗

From our newest Contributor, Sharon Schweitzer JD. Sharon is a cross-cultural consultant, corporate trainer, and the international award winning author of Access to Asia. Her work and travels have taken her to over 60 countries on 7 continents. With over 20 years’ experience providing consulting and training to more than 100,000 attorneys and corporate executives in law firms and global corporations, Sharon's been quoted by the New York Times, Fortune Magazine, and numerous international media outlets. Connect with her at Sharon Schweitzer or find her new book at Access to Asia

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia