Top 10 tips for doing business with China

Top 10 tips for doing business with China Helen Sawczak.

By Helen Sawczak, National CEO, Australia China Business Council and Monash Arts/Law alumna

1. Protect your IP

China has a system of first to register, so get in early.

2. Digital first

A digital marketing strategy is essential in China. It is a country where digital pervades every aspect of life; shopping, payments, education, tourism, business. WeChat has 1 billion users. Nearly 500 million people shopped online in China and 70 per cent of them did so on a mobile phone.

3. Understand the Chinese digital landscape – it’s different!

Don’t just translate your website and expect market penetration in China. The Chinese firewall is very real and websites with Google and Facebook interfaces are blocked. Your website could be invisible in China. Adopting Chinese digital platforms is crucial: WeChat, Weibo, Youku, Baidu, Sogou, Alibaba,, etc.

4. Adapt to the Chinese market

Don’t just replicate what you have done in the West – that was the mistake of many big US companies such as Google, Mattel, eBay, Home Depot and Uber, that failed to nuance their offering and understand the Chinese market.

5. Understand the Chinese consumer’s habits

Helen Sawczak.

Chinese consumers like word of mouth, reviews, Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), and constant fresh video marketing content.

Sogou is one of the major search engines in China after Baidu and it is essentially a conglomeration of reviews.

And it’s important to keep abreast of latest trends such as the New Retail being offered by Alibaba’s HeMa Fresh which is a mix of online and offline retail.

6. Understand key government priorities and social habits

At the 19th National Party Congress, the Chinese Government prioritised consumption, health and wellbeing, the environment and infrastructure.

Linking these priorities and associated initiatives such as the Belt & Road and the China International Import Expo can open doors.

Also understand social phenomena like Alibaba’s Singles Day on 11 November which last year clocked up a record of $33 billion of online sales in 24 hours.

7. Build relationships

Belligerent and rushed negotiations are seldom successful. Confrontation and causing loss of face is also disastrous for business.

Take time to build personal connections and mutual trust and understanding.

8. Don’t rush

When President Nixon asked Premier Zhou Enlai his thoughts about the French Revolution, Zhou Enlai responded, “It’s too early to tell”.

The Chinese take a long-term view, and companies that have patience will fare better. The recent Westpac Australia China Business Sentiment Survey revealed that Australian companies that had been in China longer were more profitable.

9. Use local knowledge

Use local advisers and choose local partners to leverage home ground advantage.

10. Test the Chinese market in Australia

Australia has 1.2 million people with Chinese ancestry living here, 170,000 Chinese overseas students studying here and 1.4 million Chinese tourists visiting annually, as well as 60,000 Daigous shopping for Chinese consumers.

You can effectively test the Chinese market right here in Australia.