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How to Communicate in Business Chinese Effectively

As Chinese-speaking individuals make up more than one-fifth of the world’s population, this language has taken a considerable presence in the business world. If you’ve been doing business with Chinese people, being able to communicate in business Chinese language can open up many opportunities and help you with future deals.

So if you’re planning on successfully doing business in China, you better start learning business Chinese. 

Keep in mind the most common business Chinese vocabulary and phrases

To get you started, here’s a full list of Chinese words and phrases you can add to your business Chinese vocabulary.

Chinese vocabulary for business departments
Chinese vocabulary for job titles
Common business Chinese phrases

Of course, there are many more words and phrases that you will need to learn to do business in China. You will also need to accumulate and expand your vocabulary in your specialized business area. However, having a basis of the most essentials will help you become much more confident in closing deals and attending business meetings. 

Pandanese is an online learning platform that supports users in mastering Chinese for business, school, and travel. By employing the mnemonics and Spaced Repetition System (SRS) method, Pandanese helps users remember up to 6,000 Chinese Hanzi characters, radicals, and vocabulary per year. Our handcrafted curriculum is specially designed for each learning purpose, making sure even the busiest learners will achieve their goals in the shortest time possible. 

In each Pandanese lesson, you will receive a batch of flashcards with the Chinese characters, how to pronounce, write and use them, together with practical examples to help you remember the word easily. As Pandanese is a web-based Mandarin learning platform, you can learn Chinese anytime, from anywhere with your smartphone or laptop, with a good internet connection. Forget about carrying heavy books around! Pandanese makes learning business Chinese easier than ever, even for the busiest professional! 

Related article: How to Learn Mandarin Chinese for Business

Some do’s and don’ts in learning business Chinese 

Before you start any projects, businesses, or attend a public event with Chinese people, it’s extremely important to note that Chinese people really value professionalism and politeness. Even the smallest details tell if you’re able to fit into their business culture or not. It’s important that you are able to adapt to Chinese customs and can demonstrate cultural awareness. 

We’ve highlighted some key do’s and don’ts to bring you the best performance with Chinese business people. 


  • Understand 关系 (Guānxì)

关系 (Guānxì) means “relationship” or “connections” in English. Guānxì is a crucial factor when forming your business connection with Chinese people. While in Western countries, this can sometimes be mistaken for corruption, having a close relationship is a popular way of doing business in China.

There are many ways to develop guānxì in China, such as through formal events like conferences or business meetings, or simply over dinner or a drink. Regardless of how you develop it, guānxì is something you NEED to grasp in Chinese business culture.

  • Acknowledge hierarchy

Hierarchy is strictly enforced in most Chinese businesses. This may be most evident when you attend any Chinese business event. For example, Chinese employees may be unwilling to speak before the boss during a social gathering. They may ask for their bosses’ permission to speak. 

  • Respect formalities

Formalities are extremely important to Chinese people, especially when it comes to formal business meetings. This includes hand-shaking, wearing formal business attire, addressing people by their formal titles, and so on.

  • Give gifts

Giving gifts is commonly considered a sign of respect in Chinese culture. You don’t necessarily need to gift someone expensive gifts. Even snacks, little souvenirs, or something representing your hometown and home country can be a good choice. 

And make sure you follow the gift-giving customs, such as presenting the gifts with two hands and extending your arms out towards your host. You can also check our Chinese gift guide to understand the art of gift-giving in China. 


  • Underestimate the importance of traditional culture

Traditional Chinese culture still plays a major part in the lives of many Chinese people. This has an impact on businesses as well. 

Take holidays as an example. Chinese public holidays are usually arranged based on the Chinese Lunar Calendar. That means that holidays will fall on different dates each year in the Gregorian calendar. The Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is the most important festival. Other widely celebrated holidays are National Day, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, etc.

This is something to keep in mind while planning business travels to China. Many workplaces will be closed during these periods. Though there are still some exceptions, in general, you shouldn’t rush or urge Chinese people to work on their holidays. 

  • Be afraid to make small talk

Whether you’re speaking to the boss or a lower-ranking Chinese coworker, starting the conversation with small talk will always make things less awkward and help people easily open up to each other.  

If you don’t know what to talk about, you can start by talking about your hometown, family, and positive impression of China, like what food you enjoyed and interesting attractions. 

  • Talk about sensitive topics

It’s good to be opinionated about current affairs, however, mixing it with business is probably not the best idea. So, when it comes to business, we suggest you just talk about business-related topics. Some topics you should definitely avoid discussing with Chinese people are human rights, especially China-related human rights issues, democracy, corruption, police brutality, anarchism, gossip, disparity of wealth, territorial and economic conflicts, religious policies, etc. 

  • Speak too directly

Speaking too directly can make you sound somehow pushy and aggressive in the view of your Chinese counterparts. In general, Chinese people are often very polite and would rather avoid any potential embarrassment. 

For instance, Chinese people won’t say something like, “We need to get this done by May 1.” Instead, they would say, “Let’s aim to get this done by May 1. Does that work for you?”

This part of Chinese business culture also refers to the concept of “saving face,” which means not being a fool in front of people. If a Chinese person does not know the answer to a question, they may not publicly admit this. So, when collaborating with Chinese people, you should pay attention to indirect communication when listening to Chinese colleagues speaking. What they say may carry an indirect meaning.

You can also check some of our suggestions for a successful business with Chinese people: 

The bottom line

Understanding Chinese culture and preparing yourself with business Chinese vocabulary can help you build a strong connection with Chinese people. Start learning business Chinese with Pandanese today, develop your knowledge and awareness of Chinese business culture, and stand out among your competitors! 

Don’t forget to sign up for the Pandanese blog for more engaging success stories, Chinese life, and culture, together with helpful learning tips and tricks! 

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