Intercultural Communication (China)

Pre-University Paper, 2011

11 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1. Introduction

2. Regarding China
2.1 The Guanxi 关系
2.2 The Mianzi 面子
2.3 Never say “never”!
2.4 Go, get something to eat!
2.4.1 Greeting
2.4.2 At the table
2.4.3 Finishing the meeting

3. What we have learned …

4. Sources


„Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure“

Confucius (* 551 BC; † 479 BC)

1. Introduction

The increasing internationalization and globalization has made international competence more significant than ever before. People have to travel around the whole world to find international partners, create business connections and optimize their profits. To do so, people have to study and analyze their new partners from the other side of the globe and need to conceive what they want. Companies working together but each located in other cultural areas need to understand each other. For that reason, both culture A and culture B have to come into contact. Great business connections are the key to success and maximized profits. In order to care for good business connections, the business partners have to accommodate each other to create some kind of harmony. Both partners have to use the right way of Intercultural communication not to mess up these connections.

But, what is Intercultural Communication? For short, Intercultural Communication is the wordless language at cultural contact.1 The Intercultural Communication deals with the nonverbal communication between people, often business people, from different countries. The spoken language doesn’t matter a great deal at our communicative behavior. The nonverbal communication delivers around 65 percent of social meanings between two interlocutors, what is proven by studies.2 Communication doesn’t mean only spoken language. Communication deals with all our senses. It means vision, hearing, feeling and tasting. This is the so called “Metacommunication”3. Communication never stops. Meaning if someone stopped talking, his face, his hands, his body continues further sending signals and symbols.4 Even the clothing is able to do so. For example a fine suit always tells about someone’s character or reveals the reasons why the person is dressed that decent. Maybe the person tries to appear serious and wants to make business. Whereas a guy with casualwear or sportswear sends way other signals. So the message is, that our communication doesn’t happen one dimensional throughout our spoken language, it mostly happens on way upper dimensions, meaning all actions which get noticed by our counterparts. Comparing to the model of the Culture Iceberg, understanding a culture doesn’t only happen on the visible level, to the contrary, it mostly happens on the unseen levels below the water surface.

The term “intercultural” defines that different cultures meet each other. Cultures definitely are different, so any culture has its own ways to interpret situations. Like already mentioned, a great part of communication happens on a nonverbal level. The point is that cultures always differ on that nonverbal level because each culture is bound to a different opinion of actions happening at the nonverbal level. So people from different countries with different cultures have a conversation sending signals while talking. These signals like gestures or body contacts are assimilated on different ways.

For example in Argentina business people talk to each other keeping only a really small distance to the dialogue partner. Their bodies nearly seem to touch while discussing. Confronting a German business man with an Argentinian one in Argentina, the German guy (not knowing anything about Intercultural Communication) would estimate this Argentinian man as really intrusive, moving backwards, gaining distance. The Argentinian business man would try to catch up that distance because he trusts in business, only working on a personal base. This example shows that two different cultures think completely different about contact while discussing serious things.5

Without analyzing and understanding other cultures people may never come to an agreement. Before we approach to analyzing or even understanding a culture, we have to define what culture really is.

Culture isn’t just a term to be explained in a few phrases. Culture has its own subjective definition that differs from person to person. In 1952 two anthropologists found around 164 different definitions of culture.6 Many people mix the term “culture” up with “high culture”, describing arts, music and architecture. At Intercultural Communication, culture only deals with the parlance of the hidden values of people’s culture. Oatey Spencer (1999) defines culture in intercultural studies as the total of attitudes, assumptions, values and principles of everybody’s own or principles shared by a group of people, which affect people in that group and their interpretation of other people.7 Meaning that it is something like an orientation system of a society, that influences noticing, thinking and acting of the people, living in that society.8

Summarizing, the Intercultural Communication gets more and more important for contact between cultures that differ extremely. The bigger the differences between culture are, the more it is a challenge for both to deal with each other’s culture before debating about may really important deals. In the end the dialogue about the business decides whether it can make or break the deal.

2. Regarding China

Regarding China, regarding its history and regarding their geographical vast land area, China isn’t just a country; it is another world with different habits and different lifestyles.

Since China has evolved in our nowadays world as an economic superpower, Intercultural Communication, especially for businesses trying to reach the Chinese markets, received more attention than ever before. People have to deal with Chinese mentality and their way of communication. Chinese people differ very much from all the western industrialized countries. About policy, the Chinese have set general equality as an aim. “The nail that stands out is the nail that gets hammered down.”9 This saying tells us that the Chinese are not attending individuals but caring about collectivism. The reigning party in China tries to reach the communistic ideas of Mao-Zedong which differ massively to the ideas of any western country.10 People living in that country identify themselves with all, regardless whether policy or economic ideas, happening and insisting there. People from western countries approaching to reach new markets in China need to know about those circumstances. If people travel to another country, they have to adjust to the people living there to appear friendly and cooperative.

Regarding China, the Confucianism has played a big role in their past as it does nowadays. The Confucianism mainly affects Chinese society, after being mostly abrogated by economic development and modernization. It means that Chinese people really care about family and their relations. They also identify themselves regardless whether in family or at work with hierarchy systems. One of the most important things is the demanding of harmony.11

The Chinese people have many factors defining their society that influence the behavior of the people in China very much. These factors are now explained in the following.

2.1 The Guanxi 关系

The term Guanxi comprises relationships12 and personal contact13 between cooperative partners. In China the Guanxi is also understood as a network of all relationships between all cooperatives working together and support each other. The Chinese mentality at work is based on mutuality between the business partners. The people there show this through supporting others voluntarily and regularly and through showing interest for the other’s life. So this grants that the partner is morally committed to do things conscientious and well. It is a sign for every man functioning effectively in Chinese society.14 Meaning that business people from other countries arriving in China to make profit need to know their Chinese partners very well and the other way around. They have to invest sometimes a long time to share interests and to create a mental connection to the new cooperatives. The Chinese people dislike short-lasting connections. They appreciate more than just a few dialogues about the business deal. They want to create a foundation of trust. The manager magazine calls what they don’t want the “seagull maneuver”, meaning to approach loudly, leave back the mud and fly away back home.15 The Chinese like to know more about the family, the life and the interests of their partners than it’s usual in Europe or somewhere else. The Guanxi is the necessary and natural mental base for every business connection.

2.2 The Mianzi 面子

In China, the people always like to show themselves at their best. The reputation of everyone’s own is more important than many other things. In the nowadays Chinese society the Mianzi, in English “the face” is something that you can lose, give someone else or just try to keep for yourself.16 While living in a society with more than one and a half billion of people it may not be that easy to represent yourself and tell the others (maybe an employer) that YOU are there. You may don’t get any attention until you don’t have a good Mianzi. People always have to watch for their reputation to be successful. As a man of business you always need to look for yourself at first in China. But you also have to care about the others!

The most important principle in China is not to insult the others’ Mianzi. While being in China you always have to respect any other’s dignity not to influence his Mianzi in society.17 Based on Confucians tradition, the harmony in China is classified with a high significance, meaning that keeping this harmony is always good for you and your cooperatives.

Losing your face (Mianzi) in China is something like the worst thing that could happen to you. People won’t respect you anymore and now less than ever make business with you.18 Giving up the Mianzi is comparable with moral suicide in society, often leading to real suicide.19

Therefore you need to do all possible not to lose your face. As a person coming from other cultural areas with other habits not knowing anything about Chinese Mianzi it may not be that hard to lose your face. In Europe it is usual to present your achievements and tell the people how efficiently you’re able to work. In contrast to that, people in China would conceive this as pretentious and egoistic. People have to admire and respect the performance of their partners.20 Talking positively about others may not only increase their reputation, it also strengthens the personal connection, the Guanxi, to their mutual advantage.


1 Vgl. Heide Wahrlich (2002) von Abgerufen am 21. 10. 2011 von Seite 2

2 Siehe Fußnote 1 Seite 2

3 Siehe Fußnote 1 Seite 2

4 Siehe Fußnote 1 Seite 2

5 Vgl. Alexander Groth (2008). Vorlesung - "Interkulturelle Kommunikation". Universität Mannheim von

6 Vgl. Stefan Dahl (2000). intercultural network. Abgerufen am 22. 10 2011 von

7 Siehe Fußnote 6

8 Vgl. Cornelius J.M. Beniers (2005): Managerwissen kompakt: Interkulturelle Kommunikation. Seite 6. Abgerufen am 31.10.2011 von

9 Vgl. Cornelius J.M. Beniers (2005): Managerwissen kompakt: Interkulturelle Kommunikation. Seite 16. Abgerufen am 31.10.2011 von

10 Vgl. wikipedia (2011): Volksrepublik China. Abgerufen am 30.10.2011 von Artikel als lesenswert ausgezeichnet!

11 Vgl. Yan Slabke-Sun (2009): Interkulturelle Kommunikation China – Einleitung + 1. Guanxi. Abgerufen am 30.10.2011 von

12 Vgl. Los Angeles Chinese-School (2011): Chinese Business Culture – Guanxi, An Important Chinese Business Element. Abgerufen am 30.10.2011 von

13 Siehe Fußnote 9

14 Siehe Fußnote 10

15 Vgl. Gudrun Weitzenbürger (2007): Erfolg in China -„Alles dreht sich um guanxi“. Abgerufen am 30.10.2011 von,2828,457553,00.html

16 Vgl. Forum China (2010): Mianzi: Das Gesicht verlieren und geben in China. Abgerufen am 31.10.2011 von

17 Siehe Fußnote 14

18 Siehe Fußnote 14

19 Vgl. Matthias Messmer (2007): China – Schauplätze west-östlicher Begegnungen. Seite 488 Z27f. Abgerufen am 31.10.2011 von

20 Siehe Fußnote 14

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Intercultural Communication (China)
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intercultural, communication, china, asia, global, studies
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Christian Stöhr (Author), 2011, Intercultural Communication (China), Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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