Corporate gifting and Chinese Culture

An insightful article on the topic of gift giving in international context published on the website of International Business Center by Kimberley Roberts focuwes on norms of gift giving in China.

  • Countries in the world with a Chinese cultural influence, a collectivist attitude, accept gifts with a reserved demeanor. In order not to appear greedy, a gift will not be immediately taken, but refused three times before finally being accepted. Each time it’s refused, you as the giver must graciously continue to offer the gift. And once it’s taken, tell the person you’re happy it’s been accepted.
  • The gift is offered using both hands and must be gift-wrapped; though it won’t be opened it front of you. It will be set aside and opened later. This tradition eliminates any concern that the recipient’s face might show any disappointment with the gift.
  • If you’re presented a gift, follow the same process of refusing it three times then accept it with both hands. You’ll also not open it, but wait until later. In China, official business policy considers gifts as bribes, which are illegal. Though the policy is softening, there may be times when a gift you offer will absolutely not be accepted. Should you find yourself in this situation, graciously say you understand and withdraw it. Waiting until negotiations have concluded will eliminate the appearance of bribery when a gift is presented.
  • Typically one person is not singled out to receive a special gift, especially in front of a group. If you’ve established a good working relationship with someone and want to give a gift, arrange a time when the two of you are alone to present it. Then when you do give it, be sure to say it’s being offered as a gesture of your friendship, not business.
  • A gift’s value should be commensurate with the level of the business dealings.  You don’t want to inadvertently select a gift that has a negative or unlucky association. And because of the symbolism, it can happen. For instance, a fine writing pen would be a good gift, unless it has red ink.

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