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Chinese Business Etiquette

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Chinese Business Etiquette

A Guide to Protocol, Manners, and Culture in the People's Republic of China

Warner Books,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

When you work with the Chinese, the hospitality is real, but the “yes” isn’t: how to function when a nod only means “I’m listening,” connections are critical, and saving face is everyone’s primary motive.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable


Scott D. Seligman brings his considerable experience working and living in China to this revised and updated edition of his classic guide. James McGregor, the former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said the original classic, "should be a mandatory carry-on item for all business travelers to China." More than a how-to, this is an updated, candid, and thorough tour of protocol, manners, and culture. It delves deeply into the reasons for Chinese behaviors, and shows how you can deal effectively with any business or social situation. recommends this book to anyone visiting or working in China, or dealing with the Chinese professionally or socially in any country.


The Basics

During the 1990s, China let go of its Leninist influences in favor of "socialism with Chinese characteristics." Add the influence of the West - in technology, culture, and manners - and you have a very different China today. Some of the more stringent protocols have been relaxed, but despite this adaptation, the old basic rules still apply. Understanding "what the Chinese expect and why they expect it is still, therefore, vitally important to all who wish to deal with them. In most cases it continues to make the crucial difference between success and failure."

Situational specificity is at the core of behavior in China. This means that you will be treated in a specific way based on who you are to a particular Chinese person or group of Chinese, and what situation you are all in at the time. The protocol for dealing with particular business and social situations is slightly different in each type of encounter, though the basic etiquette applies across the board.

The core concepts of classic Chinese philosophy - Confucianism - revolve around human relationships and the idea that the correct behavior is based upon situations and types of relationship. ...

About the Author

A native of New Jersey, Scott D. Seligman, lived in the Orient for more than eight years. He holds a masters degree from Harvard, and taught at Tunghai University in Taiwan. He managed the U.S.-China Business Council’s Beijing office, and helped found the American Chamber of Commerce in China, where he was an executive. In the 1990s, he managed Burston-Marsteller’s China office. He has written numerous articles on China, and is the co-author of Chinese at a Glance and Now You’re Talking Chinese.

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