You are here


Chinese business people running in the Forbidden City

China is a land of opportunity—it is fast becoming the world’s largest market. But culture clash with Chinese counterparts obstructs communication, trust, and cooperation.

Some multinationals fail outright; others, while successful, find work relations with Chinese counterparts difficult. “The most frustrating aspect of work with the Chinese,” they say, “is no early warning when things go wrong.” Foreign managers often miss subtle clues that Chinese colleagues give, however, not only because of the language barrier but because of their indirect communication style and “don’t make trouble when there is no trouble” mentality. Once a problem is noticed it is often too serious to repair.

Chinese engineers working on a construction site

Business Case 1

A multinational firm in heavy machinery rolled out standardized operation procedures in all its global subsidiaries except China, which did not corporate saying that the new procedures would alienate the firm’s largest supplier there. CCC got involved at this point. It discussed the situation with the top management and concluded that the conflict between headquarters and the China subsidiary was largely due to cultural differences. After combined modules of intercultural training, consulting and coaching to managers, engineers, and operational staff in Europe and China over a year, new procedures were put in place to guarantee product safety and quality on one hand, and business efficiency on the other. 

Chinese student in a library reading and learning

Business Case 2

A leading Dutch university (its science faculty in particular) welcomes Chinese Ph.D. students and young researchers because they are intelligent, hardworking, and cooperative. But most of them have never lived abroad and—in modes of thought, habits of work, and style of interaction with professors—differ a lot from their Western peers. The university science faculty had CCC give Chinese students cultural-adaptation training as part of their orientation program, which not only introduced them to Dutch academic culture but also helped them settle down quickly to focus on study.