Saturday, May 3, 2014

Scottish Diplomacy and Chinese Etiquette

This article was first published in 2011

Scotland has been trading with China since the 18th century. Key opportunities exist in the areas where Scotland’s strengths match China’s strategic growth priorities  –  financial services, renewable energy, life sciences and education.

A SCHOOL is to run lessons on Chinese etiquette to help Scottish companies strike deals in the burgeoning Far East economic sector.

St George's School in Edinburgh will offer business- orientated courses in the Mandarin language, as well as teaching the dos and don'ts of dealing with Chinese business leaders.

The evening course, which begins in March, comes after the Chinese government agreed to lend two pandas to Edinburgh Zoo, which is near the school.

"Panda Diplomacy" has existed as far back as the Tang Dynasty, when Empress Wu Zetian (625–705) sent a pair of pandas to the Japanese emperor.  The term has come to refer to China's use of giant pandas as diplomatic gifts to other countries. 
It has taken years of diplomacy to seal the deal, which could be worth millions to the Scottish economy.

The new nightclass aims to help firms in Scotland that are keen to capitalise on potential Far East markets to avoid cultural gaffes.

Helen Mackie, headteacher at the girls' independent school, said: "This is a huge opportunity for Scotland. The Scottish Government has really developed this relationship which could be crucial for the economy.

"We need our education system to get behind it and develop an understanding of the culture as well as the language. The opportunity is there and we have to grab it."

The course, which will be led by teachers at the school, will teach the youngsters key phrases for use in the business world. It will also provide invaluable hints and tips for the children on how to act and how to avoid offending potential Chinese business contacts.

Chinese symbol for "hospitality."  Hospitality is key so it is important to return it to the same level they give to you.
Mrs Mackie said it was important to recognise hierarchies in China, observe seating plans and return hospitality.

She said: "The lowest member in the group will sit with their back to the door and the highest facing the door - so sitting in the wrong place could cause great offence.

"Also, hospitality is key so it is important to return it to the same level they give to you."

Mrs Mackie said that these kind of points were crucial to making or breaking a deal.

David Lonsdale, the assistant director of CBI Scotland, welcomed the courses, which he described as a "positive" move for Scottish business.

He said: "I'm sure they will get a very favourable response from the local business community.

"Scotland does well in terms of its business relationships with China, but we need to see a real step-change and take it to a new level to capitalise on all the opportunities that the Far East offers Scottish business."

St George's has led the way in the teaching of Mandarin in Scotland.


DO spend time reading the business card of your Chinese colleague. It's seen as rude to simply slip it into your pocket straight away without reading it.

DO offer your business card in return, using both hands. Using one hand may offend.

DO be careful about where you sit in meetings. The lowest-ranking member of a group will sit with their back to the door and the highest facing it. Sitting in the wrong seat could cause great offence.

DON'T stick your chopsticks into your food and leave them sitting upright. This is a big no-no in Chinese culture.

DO return hospitality to the same level you have received it. This is very important and could be seen as a snub if you offer less in return.

DON'T tell your prospective colleague from China that you will meet them at the hotel. They could well expect to be met at the airport.

DO ensure your staff are of an equal level. For example, make sure a director speaks to a director and so on down the hierarchical chain.

Originally published 12 January 2011 in

No comments:

Post a Comment