CHINA
COMMUNICATION
 
 
 
 
 

VERBAL

Conversation Guidelines
Before one visits China it is highly recommended that they review China's culture, history and geography.  The Chinese people will appreciate it.  In both business and general conversing, it is highly recommended that one refrain from saying no.  Ambivalence is preferred over a straight no answer.  It is common for the Chinese host to ask somewhat intrusive questions regarding your age, marital status, and income.  The Chinese will also prefer small talk versus the straight to the business conversation, reflecting their relationship building first.
Topics To Avoid
It is recommended that one avoid mentions the topic of Taiwan.  If the subject comes up, never refer to this country as "The Republic of China" or "Nationalist China." The correct term is "Taiwan Province", or just "Taiwan."  Additionally, it is recommended that one refrains from referring to China as "Red China", "Mainland China," and "Communist China."
Good Topics Of Conversation
Welcome topics of discussion are as follows:
     -Chinese scenery, landmarks
     -Weather, climate, and geography in China
     -Your travels in other countries
     -Your positive experiences traveling in China
     -Chinese art

 

NONVERBAL

Kinesic Behavior
The Chinese have several facial expressions, which vary in meaning.  For example, sticking out the tongue expresses surprise, a widening of the eyes shows anger, and scratching the ears and cheeks indicates happiness.  They also have a unique method for beckoning someone, by turning the palm downward and moving the fingers in a scratching motion.  The open hand is used for pointing ( not just one or two fingers.)
Proxemics
The Chinese differ from their American counterparts in regard to Proxemics.  Chinese business people prefer their office layouts to be open with people at all levels working and talking in proximity to one another.  The Chinese also prefer their desks to be arranged side by side versus the American preference of face to face.  Personal space is very limited in China, especially while conversing.  However, it is important to leave sufficient room for one to bow. 
Paralanguage
The Chinese like most cultures produce sounds to communicate.  It is common in China to show one's surprise or dismay by sucking air in quickly and loudly through the lips and teeth.  Additionally, when speaking it is not uncommon for the Chinese speaker to raise the volume of his voice and tone.  This may sometimes be mistaken for hostility.  The Chinese also have a habit of pausing or becoming very silent when conversing, which is a sign of politeness and contemplation.

 

STYLE OF COMMUNICATION

Confrontation
The Chinese avoid confrontation at all costs.  This is evidenced in their avoidance in using the word no.  They are extremely vigilant about saving face in all situations.  The Chinese's fear of losing face in a business or social setting precludes them from being confrontational.  In China a person's reputation and social standing rests on this concept.  Causing embarrassment or loss of composure can be disastrous for negotiations.
Feedback
The Chinese are very proud and respectful people, who are extremely private with their feelings, especially as it relates to foreigners.  Although they are interactive with other Chinese people with decisions being collaborative they are reserved with foreigners, making dialogue challenging. 
Attitudes
The Chinese's attitudes towards Americans greatly influences their interactions with American's.  The Chinese view American's as profit driven and very individualistic.  This perception is accentuated in their negotiations with the Chinese using American's impatience against them.  They prefer a slow and methodical approach to decision making. 

Sources:  China Executive Planet, www.executiveplanet.com
Tassi: Asian Gestures Body Language and Nonverbal Communications, www.csuponmona.edu/~tassi/gestures.htm
Deresky, Helen, International Management (Prentice Hall 2000) p131-133.