Getting Ready for a Business Trip to China

Getting Ready for a Business Trip to China

Are you gearing up for a business trip to the People’s Republic of China? If this is your first visit, brace yourself for a country that promises to surprise you. This isn’t necessarily a negative experience. Engaging with something unusual, encountering different customs and cultures, particularly in a place as unique as China, can indeed be a form of stress. However, if you approach everything with an open mind, you’ll be ready to face not only the challenges of business negotiations but also the eclectic cuisine—from fried sparrows to «snake» wine, which includes a snake, several scorpions, and other fantastical creatures in the bottle. Embrace it; this is life, and it’s fascinating.

With this optimistic mindset—go for it!

First and Foremost—the Visa

Planning a business trip to China? Your first order of business is securing the correct visa. For business trips, you’ll typically need either a tourist or a business visa. In some instances, certain types of visas can be obtained upon arrival if you have an invitation from a Chinese entity. It’s crucial to have all necessary documents prepared and be ready for a potentially time-consuming process. Additionally, if you opt to get your visa upon arrival, ensure your travel dates do not coincide with a weekend or public holiday in China, as this could significantly delay your visa processing.

For short-term trips (up to one month), a single-entry tourist visa usually suffices. This visa is valid for 30 days with a three-month entry window.

For longer trips, a business visa is more appropriate. A single-entry business visa can be issued for either 30 or 60 days, also with a three-month entry window.

Here’s a list of documents you’ll need to apply for a visa to the People’s Republic of China:

— A completed and printed official visa application form (Visa Application Form of the People’s Republic of China) with your signature.

— A valid passport (ensure it has at least six months of validity remaining beyond your planned entry date into China).

— A copy of the passport’s personal information page and copies of any previous Chinese visas (if applicable).

— A recent color passport photo.

— Copies of your round-trip flight tickets.

— Confirmation of hotel reservations.

— An invitation letter from the Chinese company or a detailed travel itinerary including dates of stay, accommodations, and planned travel routes.

— Travel insurance covering your stay in China.

Standard processing times for visas range from one week to ten days. Expedited processing can take up to five days, while express services might take only a couple of days.

What to Download and Bring with You

While waiting for your visa, don’t forget to install a VPN. Without it, once you set foot in China, you’ll find yourself cut off from familiar services like WhatsApp, Google, Instagram, and Telegram due to the Great Firewall of China.

Make sure you have adapters for Chinese electrical outlets so your electronics can function properly. Alternatively, you can purchase them upon arrival.

Download essential apps for navigation (Baidu Maps is the most popular), translation, and communication (such as Baidu Translator).

Be sure to install WeChat—it’s more than just a social network in China; it’s a way of life. Everyone uses it, and WeChat Pay is used for everything from shopping and subway fares to ordering food online.

Connectivity Question

You can purchase a Chinese SIM card right at the airport. All the telecom operators in China are state-owned, so the rates are the same across the board. There’s no difference.

Holidays Are Great—Unless They Disrupt Your Schedule

When planning your trip to China, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the holiday and non-working day calendar. Otherwise, you might find yourself caught in the festive atmosphere but stuck in an unintentional business hiatus.

During national holidays, Chinese citizens often take a break for a week or even longer. Families travel far from the cities, factories shut down, and delays in order processing and delivery are common. Moreover, it’s unlikely that you’ll find your business contacts at their desks.

Here’s a heads-up on the «Chinese holiday schedule» for the remaining months of 2024:

— Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhōngqiū Jié): Celebrated on September 17th. There will be three official non-working days from September 15th to 17th. However, Saturday, September 14th, is declared a working day.
— National Day of the People’s Republic of China: Celebrated on October 1st. Expect a seven-day break from October 1st to 7th. Sunday, September 29th, and Saturday, October 12th, will be working days.

Keep in mind that during national holidays, public transportation is typically overcrowded as Chinese citizens travel to visit relatives, and securing tickets can be quite challenging.

Finding the Right Translator

When planning for negotiations, it’s essential to think ahead about selecting the right translator. The criteria for choosing one depend largely on the subject matter of your discussions. For technical negotiations, a young student, even if fluent in Chinese, is unlikely to meet your needs. Translating specialized terminology and technical documentation requires specific expertise.

Pay close attention to the translator’s HSK level. The Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi is the official Chinese proficiency test administered by the Chinese government to evaluate the language skills of non-native speakers. Typically, the minimum level required for employment in a Chinese company is Level 5.

Pro Tip: Choose a countryman who knows Chinese rather than a Chinese native who knows your language. Business negotiations are battles, and translators are never neutral; they always take sides. It is crucial that your translator is on your side. Much depends on them—not only their translation skills but also their ability to provide valuable advice on business etiquette, communication styles, and even suggest alternative suppliers. Skilled translators with business negotiation experience in China are worth their weight in gold, and rightly so. They often determine the outcome of business negotiations.

In summary, it’s unwise to hire a specialist who lacks competence in your field and is unfamiliar with the foreign trade sector. You need a professional who understands the intricacies of doing business in China, has experience dealing with local manufacturers, and is knowledgeable about your industry. Such a translator will be both an advisor and an ally, offering timely suggestions on when to pause and «have some tea,» and smoothing out any rough edges in the conversation.

Logistics Considerations

When planning your trip, especially if you intend to visit multiple cities, it’s essential to map out your route in advance. While booking flights from the U.S. is generally straightforward, securing train tickets once you’re in China can be challenging, particularly during peak tourist seasons. The simple solution? Ask your translator or Chinese partners to purchase the tickets for you ahead of time.

Additionally, make a follow-up call to the factories you plan to visit to confirm that the key decision-makers will be available on the scheduled dates. Secure a firm commitment that all the necessary personnel will be present at the right place and time.


As you prepare for negotiations, research the companies and individuals you’ll be meeting with. Establish a clear agenda and objectives for each meeting.

Translate all critical documents and presentation materials into Chinese, ensuring they align with China’s cultural and business standards.

At the start of negotiations, make sure you understand the roles of everyone present—who the decision-maker is, who the technical expert is, and who handles finances. Exchange business cards. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if there are any points you don’t understand.

Prepare a presentation about your company in Chinese if the meeting format calls for it.

In your presentation, explain your organization’s line of work and the objectives you aim to achieve through collaboration with your audience. Are you a manufacturer in need of long-term, consistent supply with adherence to deadlines and quality? Highlight these and other critical points in your presentation.

Emphasize the advantages of working with you. A significant selling point could be your ability to conduct communications in Chinese.

Specify the volumes you intend to purchase, outlining your quality requirements. Discuss payment terms and the possibility of discounts.

Etiquette Matters

It’s important to remember that the European or American business negotiation styles don’t align with traditional Chinese business etiquette. In China, the focus is more on understanding who you are rather than what you want from the partnership.

At the beginning of your meetings, remember to offer suitable compliments to those present. Gifts or souvenirs are also appreciated and can help break the ice.

If your Chinese partner offers to book a hotel for you, accept the gesture. This is a sign of hospitality, and declining it can be seen as offensive. It’s customary here to show attention and respect to guests in this manner. Sometimes, companies even cover the entire cost of your stay, viewing it as a part of their brand’s reputation and representative expenses, even if there’s no guarantee of a deal.

Don’t refuse a dinner invitation—it’s considered impolite. And if you’re invited, don’t try to pay for yourself.

During the dinner, the conversation will likely focus on your family and personal life rather than business. The Chinese are keen to understand who you are and whether you can be trusted; they already have a good grasp of what you’re offering. In an informal setting—whether over a meal or during a tea ceremony—you’ll also have the chance to learn a lot about your Chinese partners.

Make Time to Live, Not Just Work

And don’t forget about relaxation. It’s crucial, especially during a business trip. Find time to unwind, take walks, and explore the local attractions. This isn’t an empty recommendation. You need to understand that China can be stressful for many people from the U.S. It’s a completely different culture, language, and mindset. It’s almost like landing on Mars. If your business trip schedule is too intense, you might end up overwhelmed, remembering your trip to China as a nightmare. Clear your mind and give it a break from stress. The best way to do this is by visiting attractions and indulging in traditional Chinese cuisine.