China is home to 1.3 billion people, and is now the second-largest economy in the world, as well as the world’s fastest-growing economy. It is still considered a developing nation, and the style of business in China is extremely different to in the UK.

China is home to 1.3 billion people, and is now the second-largest economy in the world, as well as the world’s fastest-growing economy. It is still considered a developing nation, however, China's potential for trade with other counties is enormous, including:

  • Size, scope and speed of growth – planned growth of 7 percent is robust in the second largest economy of the world.
  • Rise of regional cities – the rapid growth and emergence of regional cities is transforming the Chinese marketplace into a vast and dynamic network of regional markets and industry clusters.
  • China outbound investments ‘Going Global’ – Outward FDI from China is increasing rapidly. This means growing opportunities for partnerships between UK and Chinese businesses.
  • Moving up the value-chain – the development of technology-led sectors and high-value capabilities has become a key policy focus for the Chinese government. The UK is the sixth largest manufacturing nation in the world. The advanced engineering expertise is outstanding. The scope for cooperation is significant.
  • Addressing environmental issues – China has set the target of achieving more sustainable growth through increasing energy efficiency and improving environmental protection. China is the largest export market for UK Low Carbon goods and services, and will continue to offer good opportunities.
  • Ongoing government reforms – China continues to undergo major reforms to transform its economy. Reform of public services will generate new opportunities in a range of sectors, including healthcare, education, financial services and agriculture.
Stephen Phillips, Chief Executive of the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) told
China Facts
Ethnic groups: Han Chinese 92 percent, remainder comprises 54 separate smaller ethnic groups, including Tibetan, Mongol and Korean.

Languages: Official: Mandarin; Spoken: Wu (Shanghainese), Yue (Cantonese), Min (Minnan, Mindong, others), Xiang, Gan, Hakka, various Mandarin dialects and Patuá



National Holidays:
New Year's Day (Jan. 1), Spring Festival, Chinese New Year (Feb 3), International Women’s Day (Mar 8), Arbor Day (Mar 12), Labour Day (May1), National Youth Day (May 4), International Children’s Day (Jun1), Anniversary of the Founding of the Chinese Communist Party (Jul1), Army Day of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (Aug 1), Teachers' Day (Sep1), National Day (Oct1)

Business hours:
Offices: Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm (with an hour break at noon); Banks: Sundays to Saturdays 9am to 6pm. Government: Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm. Retail: Sunday to Saturday 9am to 8pm. “China has made massive economic progress over the last three decades and is now the world's second largest economy. The economy has continued to register solid growth of 8-10%, despite the weak global economic environment. The momentum of the economy has been sustained by the major government stimulus package and ever growing consumer demand”.

He continued: "“The 12th 5-year plan for the period 2011 to 2015 has recently been approved by the Chinese Government. This 5 year period is seen as critical for accelerating the transformation of economic development and sees continued commitment to the ongoing reform and opening up of the economy. The plan balances the need for continued strong growth - albeit at a slightly lower level of 7-8% p.a. over the period - with the quality and efficiency of such growth”. Key features of the plan that will drive commercial opportunity include:
  •  boosting domestic demand
  •  growing the services sector
  • continued urbanisation
  • improved urban-rural and regional development
  • the use of science and technology and innovation
  • major reductions in energy consumption and emissions
  • improving the environment
  • poverty reduction
  • reform of public services
  • agricultural modernisation
  • upgrading manufacturing capability
  • development of new strategic industries."
In conclusion, Stephen Phillips said: “China is currently the UK’s 9th largest export market, but as it is the second largest economy, there is clearly significant room for growth. In 2010, the UK exported £7.2 billion worth of goods and services to China and overall UK exports to China increased by 41 percent. British companies are doing well in China – but we could be doing much more. The window of opportunity will not be open forever and, if we don’t take advantage, you can be sure that others will”.

As one might expect, the style of business in China is much different to that of the UK.


While there are many dialects and languages spoken in China, the predominant language is Mandarin. While English is spoken by many, the levels at which it is spoken vary greatly throughout the country so a translator is likely to be required unless you can speak fluent Mandarin.

A key point to remember about communicating in China is that people find it hard to say ‘no’ as it is considered embarrassing. If you receive anything other than a definite yes, it could mean no. Another point to remember is that the Chinese tend to use very little body language, which Britons may find hard to interpret. With regards to body language, you should try to avoid pointing, and if you have to then gesture with an open palm instead of pointing with an index finger.

Groups attending meetings in China should take note that Chinese businessmen have been known to single out one person from a group to use as their main channel of communication. If this should happen, that person should expect to receive any requests or information directly.

Business structures

Business structures in China tend to be extremely hierarchical. There is a great deal of respect in Asian culture – elder people automatically receive more respect. The management style will be very directive, with instructions being passed along a very clear chain of command. Subordiantes are expected to carry out instructions without questioning them. Managers may be viewed as father figures – they command respect, but in turn ensure the wellbeing of their employees.

Officially, women in China have the same rights and equality as men. However, due to traditional roles, some managers in China, particularly older managers, may still treat women differently to men.


In meetings, participants should always stand when a more senior figure enters a room. They should be offered the best seat and be attended to with care. Do not offer your hand first for a handshake – if this does not happen then a nod or slight bow is the customary greeting. People usually lower their eyes as a mark of respect.

Exchanging business cards in China is something of a ritual and is always done at a first meeting. They should be presented and received with both hands and then examined in detail. Have your business card translated into Mandarin, and have this printed on the reverse side – present it so that the translation faces upwards.

Chinese decision-making can be a drawn-out process – therefore expect to attend a series of meetings. You should always be very patient as this is valued in China.


Gift giving is a ritual in China and should be treated as such. Bribery is illegal, so avoid giving anything too expensive, and never give a gift to a government official as this is also illegal – it may be an idea to wait until negotiations are completed before offering a gift. Gifts should always be wrapped, and may be refused up to three times before being accepted. Always offer gifts with both hands to the most senior individual there. Items should not be opened in front of the person who has given them. Anything black, white and blue should be avoided, as should the number four.

Team work

Team work is a common concept in China, as the Chinese tend to be consensus-oriented. However, it may seem to Britons that Chinese people do not possess much initiative, as team members tend to act alongside others rather than independently of them.


Wealth is admired, so dress well, but don’t overdo it. Dark suits are the norm for men. Women should avoid high heels and short sleeved tops.