Differences in Chinese and American negotiating styles are rooted in the Staircase and Roller Coaster Models of Cultural Reality.  For Chinese, with a strong sense of relationship, negotiations are used to develop long-lasting and trusting relationships.  While Americans are not adverse to relationships, their primary purpose in negotiating is to achieve a favorable “deal” – as quickly as possible.  They also place a huge amount of faith in a contract – considering it to be “written in concrete.  While Chinese tend to see “deals” as conditional – if change occurs in one area, then other areas (already decided upon) are fair game to be re-negotiated.  These perceptions of what negotiations are basically about can cause huge culture bumps.


Another area that can contribute to culture bumps is the idea of what a contract is meant to do.  For Americans, contracts are detailed long documents that spell out exactly what each party is meant to do.  It includes provisions for worst case scenarios.  For the Chinese, a contract is to establish a positive relationship between the parties – one that focuses on shared principles and will continue indefinitely.  Thus it cannot be rigid in its interpretation as Americans’ legalistic approach.

Still another difference occurs in the area of how long it takes to negotiate.  For Chinese, who need to confer with many people – both at their own level and above them – the process is lengthy.  In addition, since from their perception the purpose to develop relationships, time is of less importance than to the Americans who usually have more authority to make decisions – face to face with the opposite side.

For some specific styles, check below.




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