Chinese Banquets and Baseline Behavior – Negotiating in China

Learn to negotiate in China. Chinese banquets are an important tool for vetting counter-parties. They are checking you out, and you should be doing the same. This is a great time to figure out who is really running the show on their end. They have the home-court advantage – are they gracious or aggressive?
Excerpt from the online course: Guanxi for Professionals – Learn to Negotiate in China

Based on the ChineseNegotiation post: Know Your Chinese Counterparty: Banquets and Baseline Behaviors

From the author of:

Fragile Bridge – Managing Conflict in Chinese Business

Banquets and Baseline Behavior
The Take-away
Banquets are an important tool for vetting counterparties.
They are checking you out, and you should be doing the same.
They have the home-court advantage – are they gracious or aggressive?
This is a great time to figure out who is really running the show on their end.
You can tell a lot about their business tactics by the way they run the banquet.
Honored Guest or Pledge Hazing?
Do they select a restaurant that serves fine traditional food – but go easy on the booze and consult with you on menu items?
Who’s the Boss?
Use this opportunity to figure out their power structure.
The boss sits far from the door, probably doesn’t deal directly with the wait-staff, and will not toast early.
The ones fussing with last-minute arrangements and running around are probably lower on the totem-pole.
Who is leaning to whisper to whom? Leaners are probably subordinates.
Use this opportunity to figure out their power structure.
The boss sits far from the door, probably doesn’t deal directly with the wait-staff, and will not toast early.
The ones fussing with last-minute arrangements and running around are probably lower on the totem-pole.
Who is leaning to whisper to whom? Leaners are probably subordinates.
Ganbei translates as “dry glass”, not “cheers”.
You are supposed to empty your glass – and everyone else at the table has to do the same.
It is taken seriously. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it, and pay attention when they do.
Don’t embarrass yourself by sipping when everyone else is throwing back.
Moutai & Baijiu
The drink of choice is usually Moutai – a very expensive, super strong variety of white liquor, or baijiu.
Don’t disparage or insult it.
Non-smokers be warned: You will be offered cigarettes.
Turning down a smoke is an insult akin to refusing a toast.
Try to fake it by holding it up, nodding in thanks, and putting it in your pocket.
You can try saying you are allergic.
“I don’t smoke” or “I quit smoking” tend to be ineffective.
You may find yourself at fancy KTV after dinner.
These are lavish nightclubs where your host will reserve a private room – complete with food, more alcohol, more cigarettes, and a professional grade sound system.
Some Chinese take their singing VERY seriously. Be complimentary.
No matter how bad your singing voice, you are expected to participate.
Don’t treat banquets as an awkward chore or an obstacle that must be overcome before business can start.
This is the business and the negotiation has already started.
They are checking you out, so conduct yourself accordingly.
Take advantage of this opportunity to observe and evaluate your new partner, supplier, or client.
You are getting a snapshot of their true personality, so don’t ignore your instincts or observations
You can get away with anything except complaints and promises.
Being a good sport goes a long way.
As a general rule, you don’t want to become the center of attention at a Chinese drinking party.
It’s usually easier to fake it than explaining why you don’t drink, smoke, or sing.

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