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How to manage in Chinese business culture?

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The business culture differences between Finnish and Chinese can be summarized in three.

Firstly, the paternalism style of leadership is particularly dominant in Chinese culture. Paternalistic management refers to a family head or other paternal figure serving as the organizational leader, hierarchical structure. Chinese people are very carefully choosing the appropriate terms to address others when greeting. It is considered to be impolite to call senior people or higher position people with first name. Same as in the work place, the senior workers and bosses are always called with their family name in addition to their work title to show politeness, such as, Manager Wang. However, it is normal to call your boss by his or her first name in Finland.

Secondly, Chinese is considered as relationship-focus culture. Relationship-focused people get things done through intricate networks of personal contacts. They prefer to deal with family, friends, and persons, or groups well known to them - people who can be trusted. They are uncomfortable cooperate with strangers. Because of this key cultural value, relationship-oriented firms typically want to know their prospective business partners very well before cooperating with them. For example, meetings can be long and without direction, Chinese culture views meetings as relationship building. In contrast, in deal-focused cultures, for example, the Finnish culture, people are relatively open to doing business with strangers.

Thirdly, there are differences in communication, which can be divided to low and high context communication. Low context communication is direct communication and meaning tends to be explicit. However, High context communication is indirect communication and meaning tends to be implicit. Like in the interaction level of “iceberg’’, more knowledge is below the waterline in high context than is above the waterline in low context communication. In discussions, Chinese believe that negatives and disagreement should be showed indirectly, and without using the word “no.” At meetings, if you have opposite opinions as the person in authority, Chinese do not show the disagreement or critiques openly in front of all others, it may consider as a challenge to his or her authority position and may be taken as personal attack. In contrast, direct communication style is preferred in the Finnish culture. A Finn will carefully consider what he says and really means what he says, also expects others to do so too. And silence is regarded as a part of communication.


Yuan Xu,

The writer works in China markets sales and marketing of Econet.


Further information for the media:

Yuan Xu, Econet Ltd., tel. +358 44 087 8728, yuan.xu(at)econetgroup.fi

Econet Group is a water and environment technology service company. The Group includes Econet Ltd, Dewaco Ltd and Oy Slamex Ab. Helsinki-based Econet designs and offers solutions for clean water and environment globally. Laitila-based Dewaco, in turn, is specialised in sludge thickening, dewatering and sludge removal. Lahti-based Slamex designs and manufactures equipment for treatment of water and wastewater. The Group’s turnover amounts to about EUR 22 million.

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