Definition of Mianzi, Keqi and Guanxi
Mianzi, or “face” in English, can be defined as "status" or "self-esteem" in Chinese social relations, which differs greatly from the meaning in western culture. Having “face” means you are viewed by your peers, superiors and subordinates as someone respectable. Mianzi can be understood as the avoidance of embarrassment in front of others. One of the worst things for a Chinese is to lose face (mianzi) and thus never insult, embarrass, shout at a person or demean him, which may put him into the situation of "losing face". And never prove a person’s mistakes or yell at him in public. To communicate effectively and avoid getting a Chinese feel losing his face, any criticism should be given privately with a discreet and tactful way.
The notion of keqi is based on the amalgamation of two Chinese words, with “ke” meaning guest and “qi” indicating “behavior”. Keqi not only means considerate, polite, and well mannered, but also represents humbleness and modesty. The expression is most often used in the negative, as in “bu yao ke qi”, which can be translated literally to “you shouldn’t be so kind and polite” (however, it simply means “you’re welcome”, rather than an actual invitation to be rude).
Besides, Chinese seldom express what they think directly and they prefer a roundabout way. Neither show their emotions and feelings in public. They rarely greet people with a handshake, though it is very popular among foreigners, say nothing of embracing or kissing when greeting or saying good-bye. Consequently, it is better not to behave too carefree in public, even though you are well-intentioned. Do not particularly push yourself forward, or else you are unwelcome.
Having said that, you need not worry about these cultural barriers since most Chinese are hospitable and amiable and will not mind your nonproficiency.
Guanxi, refers to one’s basic relationship and connection with other people in his life circle and it affects the impression to others about his personal ability and influence. It can also be understood as the relationship network between various cooperating parties that support one another. It is essential for the Chinese to have good relationships. By the getting the right “guanxi”, firms could minimize the risks, frustrations and disappointments when doing business in China.
A more often used word among Chinese which has the similar meaning with guanxi is renqing. This concept reflects the depth of feeling within an interpersonal relationship, the moral obligation to keep the relationship. No matter face, mianzi and renqing, they all represent Chinese moral relationship and maintain the harmony of the whole society.
Business cards are exchanged during an initial meeting. Use both hands when presenting business cards and ensure that the writing faces the person to whom you are presenting your cards. Cards should also be received with both hands. Do not immediately put the card in a pocket or wallet, which is considered rude in China. It is better to print the business cards in English on one side and Chinese on the other.
Relationships in China are very formal. It is worth remembering that you are representing your company when doing business, so always keep dealings at a professional level. Never become too informal and avoid humor. This is not because the Chinese are not humorous but rather, the jokes may lose their meaning in translation and hence be redundant.
When doing business in China, it is of crucial importance to build contacts you may employ to act as intermediaries. This will bring about multiple benefits, as they can act as a reference, be your interpreter and navigate the legal, political and local systems and local business networks.