Negotiation Styles: Chinese vs American

Post date: Jul 15, 2010 6:11:42 AM

Cross-Cultural Comparative Analysis of Chinese and American Negotiation Styles

Due to cultural differences, negotiations in the global arena are fraught with pitfalls. In this article, we examine the characteristics prevalent in the negotiation styles of Americans (USA) and Chinese (China).

Although some argue that it is as difficult to identify the American negotiation style, several characteristics have been mentioned in different studies. Americans are frequently associated with arrogance; however, this quality may not be a strictly American characteristic, simply often associated with them due to their unique status as the ‘global hegemon’. They are often viewed as ‘risk-takers’ due to their willingness to make decisions on their own. They are also known to be impatient, which stems from the American tendency to get straight to the point and go for the goal. They focus on the contract and usually find anything outside the boundaries of the contract superfluous.

China has a long and rich history that has shaped the minds, values, and beliefs of its people. Face, which refers to a person’s reputation, is a crucial factor in Chinese negotiating style. The importance of guan-xi is founded on the collectivist feature of Chinese culture, where the welfare of the group is valued higher than the welfare of the individual. Further, hierarchy is strictly followed. Moreover, the Chinese think in terms of the whole, so will address all issues in the negotiation simultaneously with no apparent order, and seemingly not resolving anything. All this consumes a tremendous amount of time to conclude negotiations with the Chinese. Finally, after signing the contract, the Chinese will demand more than is stated in the contract.

Conflicts and misunderstandings arise due to conflicting significance placed on relationship building, and the manner in which information is exchanged. Further, a failure to understand the decision-making mechanism leads to unnecessary tension and frustration. Finally, failure to recognize the nature of the relationship forged from successful negotiations to deal with the post-agreement demands will cause tension amongst the parties.

Despite the many cultural differences between China and the USA, successful cross-cultural negotiations is possible by adhering to three key points. 


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