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How to Exchange Business Cards in China

China business cards

Travelling to mainland China on business?  Here are some tips to show respect and build rapport.

During Your First Meeting:

  • Shake hands upon meeting. Chinese may nod or bow instead of shaking hands, although shaking hands has become increasingly more common.
  • When introduced to a Chinese group, they may greet you with applause. Applaud back and smile.
  • Senior persons begin greetings. Greet the oldest, most senior person before others.
  • During group introductions, line up according to seniority with the senior person at the head of the line.

 Chinese Names & Titles:

  • Use family names and appropriate titles until specifically invited by your Chinese host or colleagues to use their given names.
  • Address the Chinese by Mr., Mrs., Miss plus family name. Note: married women always retain their maiden name.
  • Chinese are often addressed by their government or professional titles. For example, address Li Pang using his title: Mayor Li or Director Li.
  • Chinese generally introduce their guests using their full titles and company names. You should do the same. Example: Doctor John Smith, CEO of American Data Corporation.

Reading Chinese Body Language:

  • The Chinese dislike being touched by strangers. Do not touch, hug, lock arms, back slap or make any body contact.
  • Clicking fingers or whistling is considered very rude.
  • Never put your feet on a desk or a chair. Never gesture or pass an object with your feet.
  • Blowing one's nose in a handkerchief and returning it to one's pocket is considered vulgar by the Chinese.
  • To beckon a Chinese person, face the palm of your hand downward and move your fingers in a scratching motion. Never use your index finger to beckon anyone.
  • Sucking air in quickly and loudly through lips and teeth expresses distress or surprise at a proposed request. Attempt to change your request, allowing the Chinese to save face.
  • Chinese point with an open hand. Never point with your index finger.

Chinese Business Card Translation Etiquette:

  • Chinese business cards are exchanged upon meeting.
  • It is best to stand up when exchanging Chinese business cards.
  • Before presenting your Asian business card, you should make sure that it is clean
  • When presenting your Chinese business card, make sure that you hold it Chinese side up, facing your contact so that he/she can read it.
  • Exchange Chinese business cards one-by-one, individual-to-individual, and use both hands where practical
  • Chinese translated business cards are always exchanged and should be done so with two hands (as a sign of respect).
  • Chinese business cards represent the person to whom you are being introduced, so it is polite to study the card for a while and then put it on the table next to you or in a business card case.
  • Dual-sided Chinese business cards should be printed in English on one side and Chinese on the other.
  • Make sure the Chinese side uses "Simplified" characters for mainland China, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. "Traditional" characters are used in Taiwan and exclusive areas of Hong Kong.
  • Take ample stocks of Simplified Chinese business cards as almost everyone you meet will want to exchange one with you.
  • To appear at a meeting without a translated Asian business card is equivelant to refusing to shake hands at a Western business meeting.
  • Your business cards for China should include your title. 
  • NEVER distribute (or toss) your Asian business card in a manner similar to dealing playing cards.
  • NEVER place a stack of your Chinese business cards on the table and offer others to take a card from the stack.
  • If you are in a formal situation, it is proper to place the Simplified Chinese business card face up on the table in front of you and refer to it when necessary.
  • DO NOT put the card into your back trouser pocket.
  • DO NOT write comments on another person's business card, in their presence. You may write on your own name card to add information (e.g., email, home phone number, etc.).
Scenic view of The Great Wall of China Landscape.