MINDSET FOR CHINA BUSINESS -- Stories & Lessons #8 (Key Concepts of Chinese Business Practice in the context of Modern China)

Key Chinese Concept: LI [lǐ, 礼] or LIMAO (礼貌) - it means etiquette and courtesy, and it conjures up images of a rite or ceremony, which often may include the exchange of gifts.

For thousands of years, this etiquette was a key element of Chinese culture and learning

• It followed 'stylized manners' for both formal and informal 'hierarchical' relationships between all people

• This is how Chinese society maintained 'social order' despite great economic and social gaps between the Chinese elite and its large mass of peasants and farmers.

• So this concept of LI became a life-long discipline to learn and also to master these complicated rituals and ceremonies

• Even today, LI is one of the foundations for social order and the Chinese 'hierarchical mindset'

• This partially explains why Chinese employees are often 'silent' when their managers are trying to resolve problems or address poor results.

• In modern Chinese society, especially with younger people, despite being taught traditional LI or LIMAO (礼貌) at home, they are less ritualistic, especially with foreigners.

As a foreign manager, it is important to be aware of the context of the situation and its participants, and discover the right balance of following traditional Chinese rituals and etiquette versus communicating more directly. 

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