China is an attractive market for many, but it comes with its own set of challenges. Explore what you need to know before doing business in China!
Doing business in China comes with its own set of risks, challenges and potential drawbacks. From navigating the language barrier and inconsistent regulations to the lack of intellectual property protection and the volatile political climate, there are many factors to consider before entering the Chinese market.
Familiarize Yourself with Chinese Business Culture.
Understanding Chinese business customs is an important factor for success when doing business in China. It’s essential to become familiar with certain cultural differences and be mindful of the way in which you communicate and interact with potential partners. Prior research is key if you want to avoid embarrassing faux pas. For example, gift-giving and exchanging ‘red envelopes’ (filled with money) are traditional ways of building relationships that should definitely be taken into consideration during negotiations.
However, the language barrier can often cause misunderstandings, as English is not the primary language in China. That’s why it’s essential to have a translator or an interpreter present during negotiations and business meetings. It’s also important to bear in mind that Chinese culture is hierarchical and highly structured, so non-verbal cues such as eye contact and body language are very important and should be taken into account when interacting with potential partners. All of these cultural differences should be considered before doing business in China.
Understand and Comply with Chinese Regulations.
Business transactions in China are subject to approval by the local authorities. It is therefore important to understand the legal requirements of doing business in China. Make sure that you have carefully read and complied with all laws and regulations regarding investments, trade, tax duties and other related matters. Further, it’s wise to consult with a lawyer or an experienced attorney before finalizing business dealings. Additionally, obtaining relevant licenses and permits will help ensure that your venture complies with any specific regulations in China.
Language can also present difficulties when doing business in China. Even if you or your staff are able to speak basic Chinese, it’s best to hire a translator for complex business dealings, especially when entering into contracts. If you do plan on negotiating with prospective customers and partners, it is important to be aware of the cultural nuances associated with communication. This includes being mindful of the body language you display during discussion and understanding the concept of “face”, which means taking responsibility for one’s actions rather than singling out individuals.
Research Potential Market Opportunities Carefully
Before embarking on a venture in China, it’s important to research the market and identify potential business opportunities. Research should include understanding the competition, changing economic conditions, differences in culture and language, political environment as well as labor regulations and trends. Having a thorough understanding of these factors will help you determine if your business idea is viable in China.
Additionally, due to various levels of corruption in China, businesses may have to
navigate complicated bureaucracy and negotiations to ensure legal compliance. The language barrier can also be a big source of frustration for foreign companies as translated documents and conversations are easily misunderstood in the Chinese context. There can also be unpredictable costs associated with operations in China such as high import tariffs and expensive labor costs which can make managing budgets difficult. Lastly, lack of protection for intellectual property rights in China gives companies incentive to move production outside of the country.
Investigate the Local Digital Landscape.
China has a digital landscape vastly different from other countries, from the local search engines used by consumers to the popular social networks. It’s important to understand these platforms in order to be successful in this market. Investigate the platforms which are tailored for Chinese customers such as Baidu for searches, WeChat and Tencent for social media channels, and AliPay for payment transactions. Building up a presence on the right digital channels will be integral in reaching your target audience.
Additionally, be sure to understand China’s rigid censorship laws and how they will affect your business. In some cases, certain content deemed sensitive by the Chinese government cannot be promoted or shared, and may even result in serious legal penalties for businesses. On top of that, there are numerous roadblocks to entry mentioned earlier such as the investment bans, intellectual property theft and counterfeit products that could affect your business before you even begin operations. All of this should be considered so businesses can properly plan for potential challenges when doing business in China.
Consider Partnering With a Local Firm to Access Resources and Services in China
Partnering up with a local Chinese firm can give you access to resources and services which are not available overseas. This includes essential knowledge of the local business environment, familiarity of regulations, as well as access to banker, legal consultant and public relation firms in China. Additionally, it serves as a learning opportunity that will help you to manage the cultural differences between the two countries and help you strengthen relationships with your potential customers in China.
However, there are a few disadvantages that come from partnering with a local firm. To maintain the relationship between you and your Chinese partner, you need to make sure that your objectives and expectations are understood and accepted by both companies. Your partner might not be well versed in industry specific knowledge or terminology leading to communications issues along the way. Additionally, sharing of sensitive information carries risk as partnering up entails leaving certain parts of running business in China to your local partner. Therefore, it is important that there is an alignment of interests when it comes to setting out business objectives so as to ensure successful execution on agreed tasks.