Q&A: Doing Business With China

In this section, we provide you with useful resources that help you understand the process of setting up in China, as well as many cultural tips on how to build relationships with your Chinese counterparts. For those interested in learning Chinese there are some useful courses


Translation & Interpretation

This depends on your budget, but it is advisable to hire an interpreter in the city where you are visiting. If you visit more than one city then you can even consider hiring a different one for each location, to save your travel costs. However, the advantage of using the same interpreter for the whole visit is consistency – saving you time in briefing each interpreter.

As a minimum, you should consider getting a one-page summary translated about your company, your product or service and your business track record. You can then post the same page on your website. Then you can make bullet points to put into a presentation format.   For China, you need to make sure the Chinese characters used are simplified Chinese not traditional Chinese – traditional is only used in the territory of Hong Kong or in Taiwan.

Social Media

Wechat is probably the single most important channel you should understand first – it boasted an active daily user base of 570 million by the end of 2016. Known as “Weixin” (meaning micro message) in China, it functions like a combination of WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. However, companies can have various types of Wechat accounts, so you need to know about what’s available. Each account comes with different functions and restrictions which you should compare before setting up one that suits your business needs.

No. They are banned in China, along with all Google services including YouTube. Local platforms are by far the best to use and they dominate, with Weibo, Wechat, QQ and Aiqiyi replacing the ones you are more familiar with. Even Dropbox does not work in China. However, LinkedIn does work! If you are looking to reach out to Chinese consumers via social media, then you will need to engage with these Chinese channels and it is best to get the right help.

Sales & Market Research

If a Chinese company is listed in China, you can easily find public information on them. For a private company, some credit information companies may hold a basic profile, particularly if the company exports. You can always have some form of tailored due diligence done, by doing an online search in Chinese in combination with calling its customers, suppliers, staff and even its competitors. Your Chinese partner may well expect this, but it is best to do it discreetly, so that no one loses “face” – a very important aspect of doing business in China.

You can always start with desk research in English (unless you can read Chinese), and you may find a lot of information available online. However, to get to the important issue– such as whether your product will be acceptable to Chinese customers – it is not that straightforward. Here, some primary research would be advisable, where you should arrange for real interviews so people can give you their own opinions. You can do this through calling your own contacts in China, or hiring someone locally on the ground to talk to your potential customer(s). The latter is probably better due to the time difference.

Culture & Language

If you are planning a business trip to China, you should download some essential Chinese travel vocabulary so that you can take it with you during the trip. It might save you from getting lost in a strange country and help you with situations like telling the taxi driver where to go.

If you are interested in learning Chinese in a more structured way, you will find a useful list of resources for learning Mandarin Chinese under “China Library” section.

Gift giving is a common Chinese custom that business visitors to China should prepare for and use to advantage. Some simple guidelines:

Who: Typically, if you have only one gift, then it should be presented to the person in charge or the leader of the group.

What: Gifts need not be expensive. If you do not already have a ready made corporate gift, the best gifts to offer can be items that are unique to the West (for example, something unique to Britain) or even better your own regional area. Gifts to avoid include clocks and umbrellas due to cultural taboos.


The idea of “face” in Chinese could be loosely defined as “public dignity” or “self-respect”. The Chinese do not normally prove someone wrong in public, particularly those more senior to them in terms of age or position, but it does not always apply the other way around!. Any criticism is best delivered privately, discreetly and tactfully, or else the result will be just the opposite of what you wish. Everyone keeping “face” is the best solution to problems or potential conflicts.

Admin & HR

Translate your business cards into Chinese, and take a lot with you if you are attending a trade show there. Get some marketing and product materials translated into Chinese too if you can. By all means try to set up meetings well in advance – but you must be prepared to accept last minute changes to your schedule. It’s normal in China to make last minute meetings. Make sure you have someone you can brief and who will interpret for you. Finally, always invite your host to visit you in the UK so you can return the hospitality.

Legal & Compliance


If China is a significant contributor to your overall sales and profitability and there is a strong cultural influence in your type of products, then it is worthwhile designing your products for the Chinese market. This includes everything, from your logo to your branding.

Burberry and Gucci have a number of China-exclusive designs every year, and General Motor’s huge success with Buick in China over the past decade or so has proved the value of understanding the local customer and localisation of product design. This is true even in the entertainment industry, where Western blockbuster films have been made to be more appealing to the growing Chinese audience by toning down the ethnicity of the lead villain and adding four minutes of footage containing Chinese locations and Chinese actors!

IT & Tech

An ICP (Internet Content Provider) license is a state-issued registration number that allows you to host your website on a mainland Chinese server, a rule enforced at the hosting level. Getting an ICP license is an additional step that is taken after you buy your Chinese hosting and domain, but before your site goes live. ICP license numbers are usually displayed in the small print in website footers.

You can apply for ICP registration through local hosting companies which provide assistance on ICP licensing procedures, but there are rules as to who qualifies to apply. You can find a lot of information online about ICP licensing. To actually apply for one, you do need to have access to a Chinese speaker, unless you already have a business outpost in China.

This depends on the customer base you are targeting in China. If it is for a consumer area like gaming, you need to make sure the product’s UI is 100% Chinese, as 99% of the Chinese population does not speak English!   However, if you are selling to business customers, you may be able to provide a combination of English and Chinese. Most Chinese engineers read English. The best initial route is to consult your customer or distributor in China.


Our website uses cookies and other technologies to provide you with the best possible browsing experience. If you continue to use our website, we will assume that you consent to this.

Ok Privacy Policy