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The recent rapid rise to economic prominence in Asia marks the beginning of a trend that will continue to increase in the future and it sure seems like it is not slowing anytime soon.
The Chinese economy is the second largest in the world and it is currently attracting more direct investment than any other nations in the world. It is truly astonishing as to how China has emerged itself into an economic powerhouse in just a few decades. It is estimated that by 2025, China will be the world’s largest economic power surpassing the United States.
It is estimated that in 20 years’ time, the combined economies of China, India and Japan will dominate the global economy. Asia’s growing economic dominance stems from their rigorous and continuous search for new business opportunities, this will eventually drive Western businesses to have much stronger ties with Asia: joint ventures, foreign-owned businesses and direct investments.
The Asian culture stems largely by the teachings of Kong Zi, widely known as Confucius. The Confucian doctrine practices pragmatism, moralism and non-religious ethics. Confucianism advocates behaviours of virtue, righteousness, benevolence, justice, impartiality, trust and sincerity. There are a few behavioural ideals that are deeply respected in the Chinese culture.
There are a few important points to take note of in the Asian culture: Firstly, hierarchy is the foundation of societal stability and seniority is highly respected. Secondly, a harmonious relationship is the prototype of all social organizations. An individual, group or community are not self-pursuant towards their own benefit but as a collective. Thirdly, being well mannered and civilized, having self-worth, dignity and pride is highly regarded.
However, the most important of all in a Chinese culture would be: constant learning, improving and self-betterment. These principles and values that the Chinese upholds ultimately shaped how the Chinese negotiates in general.
To be successful in negotiation, one has to master these negotiation strategies:
- Forward thinking, prioritizing long term instead of short term
Chinese cultures are inherently different from Western or Anglo-Saxon cultures – which tend to be short-term focused and individualistic. Whereas on the other hand, Asian culture sits on the other end of the spectrum, being fonder towards collective interests and long-term orientation.
According to Jeanne Brett from the Kellogg School of Management, negotiators from individualistic cultures, particularly in the West need to keep in mind that negotiators in collective cultures share an array of similarities with political and union leaders whose fate in the workplace depends on their ability to deliver value to their constituency. In a collective culture, the maintenance of harmonious relationships within the social group will shape its future social status.
- Build good rapport and listen actively
During the first meeting, though it is not always feasible to engage in small talk at the very start of a negotiation, however, research has shown that doing so can bring real benefits. Being courteous and friendly shows that a person cares more about the wellbeing of their counterpart rather than it being all business talk. In return, it is more likely for both parties to be able to reach to a mutual agreement through “breaking the ice”.
Once the discussion starts and when substance sinks in, do resist the common urge to respond immediately before thinking on how to phrase your sentences correctly. Worst case scenario is interrupting your counterpart before they finish talking, that is a huge turnoff in any negotiating circumstance. Furthermore, if a person is able to acknowledge body languages, signals behind messages – the other party may respect and mimic these exemplary listening skills.
- Phrasing appropriate questions and asking good questions
Asking good questions allows a person to gain more insights in integrative negotiations but one might be able to get helpful answers through this experience as well.
Avoid asking questions that lead to one or two worded answers, as this would usually be a conversation stopper. Instead, craft neutral questions that could encourage detailed responses. Refrain from using a condescending tone or being too straight forward as people would be taken aback by such aggressive behaviours.
- Always think and react logically than emotionally
Confucianism promotes the notion that a civilised individual must exercise self-control and restrain selfish urges to display emotions as it threatens harmony.
A good negotiator must be able to react sensibly and not lose their temper or overreact in any situation. In Asia, strong emotional displays are usually seen as a disadvantage and not an advantage. Those who are unable to contain their emotions would deter their counterparts from negotiating further as their weakness ie: inability to handle emotions, having low emotional quotient (EQ) has been made obvious.
- Implementing military doctrine (mobile warfare and joint quest) in negotiations
Mobile warfare and joint quest are the English terms from Mao Zedong’s military techniques. Mao is the former president of China and this negotiation style stems from Mao’s military technique of “conceding territory” and “avoiding battle unless necessary”, in other words always try our best to come to a common ground before resorting to unwanted measures resulting in a lose-lose situation.
Asian negotiators prefer contextualism hence they prefer cooperative and competitive negotiating styles. To promote the likelihood that the constructive joint quest negotiating style will be used, proceed with the negotiation after you have established good relationships and some degree of trust.
In a nutshell, it is always important to negotiate with an open mind, instilling impartiality and dismissing unconscious bias regardless of race and background. Always keep in mind that we are negotiating with a human being, an individual hence it is best to not to be stereotypical and group a certain race as one entity.
Doing research beforehand about who you are negotiating with would definitely bring benefits to the table but knowing too much about the other party’s culture and assuming that they would act accordingly to the cultural prototype is just wishful thinking. Thus, excellent cross-cultural negotiators would rather proceed steadily and slowly, adjusting and manoeuvring with different strategies that would work best with the other party without compromising on their goals.