How difficult can it be to do business with China? It is not a question about the current trade war between the US and China, although it does complicate matters. It is a more basic question about how you access this market. If you cannot successfully open the door then all the opportunities behind the door are hidden from you.

Five key issues form a composite key which will help unlock the China door. The first component is respect to seniority and education. It is not a feature that sits easily with many Westerners who are accustomed to a brash merit-based business culture where age is not counted as a merit. When respect for seniors is mentioned they often confuse this with obedience. Respect is taking the time to listen and giving full consideration to these opinions.

The person who speaks English in the meeting is not always the most important person. It is important to recognise there is a very detailed hierarchical structure which is partly based on seniority and partly on class. We might also put this into the concept of face which is more subtle than the cartoon representations common in Western literature.

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