Tag Archives: Negotiation

Classic Communication Gap: China vs. the West

I cannot tell you how many times I have observed the following conversation between Chinese-speaking and English-speaking businesspeople:

English Speaker: “I need you to lower your price/produce a machine I need/accept a higher price/grant a concession.”

Chinese Speaker: “Hmmm. That will be difficult.”

English Speaker: “Difficult? Well, good then. That means you can do it. If business was easy, everyone would be doing it!”

Chinese Speaker: Baffled silence.

What has just occurred is a complete misunderstanding based both sides’ lack of understanding of context and meaning in communication patterns commonly used in greater China vs. the West.

Here is what each side really means:

English Speaker: “I’m not making enough money and I need your help by reducing the price to $X/buying at a higher price ($X).”

Chinese Speaker: “I’m sorry, that’s impossible. I just can’t do that.”

At this point, the English speaker should say something like: I understand. So, how much can you do, because I can’t do business at this price?

The Chinese speaker will likely come back and say: “I can give you 5% less/more, but not the 10% you asked for.”

Classic. Happens all of the time. If you can learn what Chinese-speaking people really mean when they say things like “That is very difficult,” you’ll be much better equipped to negotiate in greater China.

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