Doing Business in China
Based on a real case study, this exercise serves to introduce participants to some of the spe-
cific pitfalls of communication and etiquette that are important to recognize and respond to
when doing business with the Chinese.
Individuals or teams doing business in China or with Chinese people, or who work directly
with Chinese counterparts. The optimum number of participants is 8 to 24.
120 minutes or more, depending on the size of the group
Handout 1, “Business Meeting Case Study,” for each participant
Flipchart and markers
Facilitator Notes
1. Introduce the exercise and break the participants into groups of four to five people. Give
each participant a copy of Handout 1. (10 minutes, depending on the size of the total
2. In small groups, discuss the business case and identify all the mistakes that Ed made and
the pitfalls that he encountered. Then speculate on the cultural reasons for Ed’s difficul-
ties. (30 minutes)
3. In the whole group, have a representative from each small group share their findings. Help
put the findings in major categories. (10 minutes, depending on number of small groups)
4. Facilitator’s presentation: In the whole group, show how the cultural patterns of differ-
ences have impacted the Sino-American experience. Use the Facilitator’s Notes, “What’s
in a Name?” to plan the presentation. As you do this, integrate what the participants
reported in steps 2 and 3. (30 minutes)
5. Back in the small groups, discuss and chart alternatives that Ed could have taken to avoid
making mistakes and encountering pitfalls. Come up with some new strategies so that
Ed’s joint venture with the Chinese has the best chances of success.
(30 minutes)
6. Report to the whole group. Each group shares the strategies they have formulated. Then
facilitate the whole group discussion of these strategies. (20 minutes, depending on num-
ber of small groups)
Facilitate the whole group and have everyone say something about what they learned. If you
have more than 25 people, break them into small groups to debrief. Later, in the whole group,
you can ask for examples of what they learned.
In closing, comment that building business relationships in China will involve many choices,
and there is no single strategy that will work all the time. It is very important to be flexible
and pay attention! (10 minutes, depending on number of small groups)

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