China Myths and Doing Business in China

Chinese business culture is laden with myths that are “perpetuated informally through stereotypes and formally through management-training programs.” ⚀ Three of the most common business culture myths are: collectivism, long-term deliberation, and risk aversion. 

One’s initial understanding of business culture in China is usually fraught with misconceptions and assumptions. When I first joined a Chinese organization in 2004 and then later joined an American-based organization eager to do business in China, I believed that Chinese people for the most part had a collective psyche. I quickly learned that many Chinese citizens are “eager to move ahead”. ⚀ Their style, at times, was “pushy and aggressive,” but I came to appreciate how they often made decisions in groups and how skilled they were at working in teams. ⚀ 

In order to overcome Chinese cultural misconceptions, it is crucial that one learn about the culture, and especially the business culture, in China. The Chinese business environment is “multi-faceted [and] fast-changing."  Keeping abreast with developments and changes within the Chinese business landscape will make a strong contribution to the long-term success of the person working with Chinese citizens.

When I first began doing business in China, I was introduced to invaluable resources such as the business etiquette guide, “Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands." ⚁ Reading and discussing these resources with colleagues provided a foundation for relating to Chinese leaders in high-level meetings and other cross-cultural business situations. "Stereotyping people from different cultures on just one or two dimensions can lead to erroneous assumptions. Even experienced, cosmopolitan managers often have faulty expectations."  It is also important to continue developing an understanding of doing business in China in order to remain knowledgeable of any changing cultural norms.

As with many different cultures, misconceptions and myths about China and Chinese culture scourge many personal and business relationships. Leaders working with Chinese nationals must challenge their assumptions, largely through professional learning and respectful interactions. 

⚀ Kreitner, R. & Kinicki, A.  (2013). Organizational behavior (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.

 Morrison, T., & Conaway, W. A. (2007). Kiss, bow, or shake hands. Avon, Mass: Adams Media.

⚂ Meyer, E. (2014, May). Navigating the Cultural Minefield. Retrieved March 23, 2017, from

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