Question # 1
People who have been involved in the cross-border and cross-cultural communications know how easy it is to face various challenges due to different negotiation styles and principles. Often, negotiators try to use their habitual ways of doing business while negotiating with foreign partners, but they soon realize that this is not the best way to do it since habitual and normal things for one culture may seem wrong and rude for others. Thus, before starting negotiations, one should always consider possible cultural differences in order to avoid conflicts.
Since China is a completely different culture with different people living there, it is extremely important to keep that in mind while doing business with partners there. Thus, it is important to remember that there are four major factors which have influenced the Chinese culture through the years and contributed to the creation of their culture (Akgunes & Culpepper, 2012).
First of all, China has historically been characterized by communal peasant farming, which displays harmony and involvement of all family members. Secondly, it is their sense of morality, namely, the writings of Confucius, which say that a society will be stable and prosperous if it is organized under a human moral code. The third factor is the Chinese pictographic language. Its visual nature enables them to think about the big picture, rather than focusing on details. The last factor is wariness of foreigners, which appeared due to numerous invasions to China throughout the history and created a tendency to keep themselves within small and close communities (Graham & Lam, 2003).
In addition, there are components of Chinese business culture which include the influence of the socialistic government, importance of family, respect for age and hierarchy, as well as the avoidance of conflict (Akgunes & Culpepper, 2012). It is extremely important to remember these aspects while doing business with Chinese partners. First of all, it is essential to be prepared for the negotiation and to know the strong and weak points of both native and Chinese cultures. In addition, since the Chinese respect their government a lot, it is also required to be aware of how both native and the Chinese government can influence the deal. In addition, a negotiator should be ready to have long conversations since it is habitual for the Chinese. One more important issue to consider is the fact that saying "no" directly is taboo in the Chinese culture.
Question # 2
As any other culture, American negotiators have both weak and strong points. The strengths usually consist in the following. The Americans usually know what they want and are armed with facts, figures, maps, and charts. In addition, they speak plainly and clearly, they are pragmatic, straightforward and are oriented on positive results. Of course, there is a need to use these traits wisely with some partners since, for certain cultures, these traits may seem to be negative (Koh, 1996).
The weak points US negotiators are the importance to keep in touch with senators, the influence of the private sector and media, as well as their impatience and cultural insensitivity (Koh, 1996). In addition, they are often viewed as "risk-takers" because they tend to take decisions on their own. Remembering the Chinese styles of doing business, it is possible to see that such traits may become a problem.
Actually, both strong and weak points are able to create difficulties in the communication with the Chinese partners. Thus, it is extremely important for an American negotiator to keep it in mind that the result of a deal and the communication itself will depend totally on his/her ability to adapt to Chinese principles of doing business.
Question # 3
There is a high level of possibility that conflicts and misunderstandings will arise due to the different significance placed on such aspects as relationship building and information exchange, which can furthermore lead to frustration and stronger tensions. Therefore, negotiators should be prepared to go to another country and communicate with foreign partners, especially if these countries are as different as the US and China.
First of all, a US negotiator should remember that the Chinese have a collectivist culture. There is a concept named guanxi, which implies that the Chinese consider a group of friends, relatives, associates and colleagues extremely important (Graham & Lam, 2003). This concept derived from the necessity to live in self-supporting communities, and it still represents an integral part in the culture.
The connections that have held families and friends together for centuries are an essential part of the culture in China nowadays, as well. Therefore, the Chinese do business only with the ones they know and neglect the ones they do not know despite their intelligence, achievements, and qualifications (Akgunes & Culpepper, 2012). In addition, the Chinese always work in a team, which also distinguishes them from American negotiators who are used to be individualistic.
Moreover, as it has been mentioned above, it is the taboo for the Chinese to say "no" directly since they think it harms their reputation and offends the interlocutor. They are able to refuse from something in an indirect way, but it can only be recognizable by a good cultural interpreter or by a native speaker (Akgunes & Culpepper, 2012). Some of the ways the Chinese disguise this word are changing the subject of a conversation, turning silent, using ambiguous and vague expressions with subtle negative implications (Graham & Lam, 2003).
Question # 4
Silence is usually perceived differently by different cultures. While the Chinese society believes that the "silence is golden" (Chang, 2006), the Americans interpret silence as lack of knowledge, ideas, or creativity. They tend to dislike the long periods of silence during negotiations and conversations. The Americans feel uncomfortable if the pause in a conversation is long, and usually, they try to fill it with small talks in order to just say something.
At the same time, a lot of cultures respect the periods of silence and use them in the course of communication. They think that silence displays respect to other person's words and that they are thinking of them. For example, the Asian nations, including the Chinese, are usually comfortable with it. Moreover, during conversations with people from such cultures, silence should not be interrupted because it will be considered as lack of respect (Chang, 2006). In addition, the Chinese are able to use silence as a negotiating tactic (Graham & Lam, 2003). Namely, they use their patience and ability to remain silent during a long time period as a weapon against impatient and talkative Americans. This may lead to longer negotiations, so, it is necessary to be ready for that.
Chinese people value the ability to be quiet and even see the ones who talk a lot as showy and immature people (Chang, 2006). Therefore, an American negotiator should be aware of that and be ready for long periods of silence during the communication. In the meantime, the Americans should not forget that interrupting this silence will not be taken positively by the Chinese partners. They should learn to be more patient and modest with them.
Question # 5
To sum up, it is possible to say that if an American negotiator is supposed to go to China in order to have negotiations with business partners there, they definitely should not just go there without any preparations. First of all, it is important to keep in mind that the Chinese have a completely different culture, which is distinguished from the American one in a lot of aspects. Thus, they need to find and read information about them and about negotiation tactics to use.
There is a great importance in learning to be patient with the Chinese since they will not tolerate the opposite. An American negotiator should forget about the rush, which is so habitual for business held in the native country because it will not serve good in China. In addition, a negotiator should be aware of the partner and of their abilities and intents.
It is essential for an American negotiator to know the context of the deal thoroughly and be able to answer any questions in order to gain the mutual trust, which is the most fundamental element in the Chinese society (Chang, 2006). They do not separate business and personal relationship talking about a long-term business contract and always seek for the proofs that they can trust the partner.
Furthermore, American negotiators should remember about their weak points, which may be misunderstood in China, and control them. Thus, in a long period of silence, they have to wait until someone from the Chinese partners breaks it. Besides, since the Chinese are not able to say "no" directly, the negotiators should watch their reactions with great attention and see when they say it indirectly.
Preparing for the negotiations may take more time than usual in this case. Nevertheless, as a proverb goes, "so many men, so many minds". In the cultural context, it seems to be even more difficult because there may be a need to use techniques and styles, which are absolutely not similar to the ones a negotiator is used to. Therefore, foreign cultures should be studied in order to avoid misunderstandings, conflicts and failed deals.