The Rotary Club of Cleveland was given a crash course in doing business in China by Frank Yin during Tuesday’s weekly luncheon.
Yin, a certified public accountant, moved to the United States from China in 1999. Before coming to the U.S., he worked for the Chinese State Department in Bejing.
According to Yin, Chinese culture focuses on the person as a member of a group while American culture focuses on the people as individuals.
Yin said it is important for each of these countries to understand each other’s culture to successfully conduct business.
He said Chinese culture emphasizes obedience to the ruler and taking instruction, while American culture emphasizes new ideas.
“Chinese people do not like arguments,” Yin said.
In China, cultural and business practices revolve around keeping the peace, while American culture and business focuses on strong leadership and innovation, Yin said.
“Chinese people are more conservative; they lack ingenuity,” Yin said.
He pointed out this is because Chinese people and businesses use the past as a constant reference point for the future. He said Western history is full of exploration, and people of Western culture are more prone to take risks and do things differently than in the past.
“Chinese people are more frugal. People in the West used to be very frugal but now live more extravagant. You don’t have the need or pressure to be frugal,” Yin said.
Yin said this extravagant living has created problems for many European countries.
In Eastern cultures, keeping someone’s respect is extremely important. Yin said traditionally Chinese people would rather die than “lose face.”
One underlying principle impacting these cultures, according to Yin, is the approach to religion. Yin said Chinese culture is based on Confucianism, which focuses on life here on earth and does not believe in God. Yin said western culture is monotheistic, believing in one God.
Individual achievement is emphasized in the United States, while the achievements of the group are emphasized in China.
These cultural elements impact how each country conducts business. Yin said American businesses focus on contracts and legally binding agreements while Chinese businesses develop mutually beneficial relationships.
Yin said in working with Chinese companies Western businessmen should keep in mind that Chinese business people rarely say “no” directly because it would be impolite. Instead of saying “no” directly when working with Chinese businessmen, Westerners should explain why the proposed idea cannot be accomplished. In conversation, the pronoun “one,” instead of “you,” should be used when talking about business because “you” is considered very informal, Yin said.
“Bring your own translator,” Yin advised Americans when working with Chinese companies.