The Language of Trust; Differences Between the West and China

by Joe

Western businesses trying to build their businesses in China must learn to network the Chinese way.  There are four very important concepts that Western managers must adjust to.  These are captured in the Chinese language as guanxi, yuanfen, renqing and mianzi.  These terms capture some fundamental differences in between the Chinese and Westerners in how each culture establishes trust in business.  Since there can be no business exchange without trust, successfully adapting to these differences can mean success or failure for Westerners who want to do business in China.

Let’s define these terms.  Guanxi is about building a network of mutually beneficial relationships which can be used for personal and business purposes.  In China, it is necessary to spend time getting to know your Chinese counterparts outside the boardroom during tea sessions and dinner banquets.  Guanxi is closely associated with the term yuanfen.  The idea behind yuanfen is that some relationships are predestined, and some people are pulled together by the mysterious forces of the universe. While many younger Chinese only give credence to the romantic implications of yuanfen, older and more traditionally minded Chinese are much more likely to view yuanfen as relevant to all relationships, including business and politics.  With yuanfen as an underlying assumption, you can see that guanxi requires that these relationships people are building are built on affections for each other.  While Americans typically maintain some separation between their personal and professional lives, Chinese tend to establish almost family-like bonds with their business associates.  This distinction between trust from the heart and from the head turned out to be the key to understanding the difference between Chinese and American networks.

One study measured executives’ willingness to do time-consuming favors for each person in their network. The researchers found that the Americans were much more likely to do favors for people who were in a position to be of significant assistance to them. The Chinese executives, on the other hand, were willing to extend themselves to help people who had little to offer in return.

One 2006 MBA study, reported by “Ideas at Work” magazine, focused on willingness to do time-consuming favors within a business network. The researchers found that Americans are much more likely to do favors for people who were in a position to be of significant assistance to them. The Chinese executives, on the other hand, were willing to extend themselves to help people who had little to offer in return.  This is a reflection of the more emotional nature of Chinese business relationships but it also reveals another important cultural distinction between the West and China; mianzi.  Mianzi is the Chinese word for “face”.  The idea is that if you do favors for people in your community, within the circle of people that you interact with, it increases your face — the esteem that the community collectively ascribes to you.

These cultural differences between the West and China are partially explained by differences in the strength of our laws in each nation.  For millennia, China has lacked a strong rule of law. Because the law has not often been able to provide the legal protections which it does in the west, Chinese people needed to develop another means of ensuring trust amongst themselves in personal and business matters.  In the absence of strong rule of law, the Chinese culture developed more organic forms of gaining conformity.

Word 4 Asia specializes in building successful relationships throughout mainland China.  If your organization is looking for assistance in this area, please reach out to us at 714) 769-9114 or email us at

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A Different Point of View: Chinese Traveling in the USA

by Joe

Summer is upon us and in many world cultures, this is the season for vacation travel.  In previous blogs on this website, we have written extensively about the experience of being an American traveling to China and cultural differences to prepare for and be aware of.  For an interesting change of pace, we thought we’d help you gain an understanding of what it’s like to be a Chinese visitor to our nation; to understand what it’s like to be ‘on the outside looking in’!  Sometimes its only by understanding how other people understand us that we can begin to understand ourselves.

According to the Department of Commerce, China lags only Mexico and Canada in the number of foreign visitors to the United States,.  As of 2015, over 100-million Chinese have traveled to the US.

Several factors have made this possible.  Increased affluence in China is certainly one reason.  Another reason for the increased travel to our shores has been an extended US-China visa agreement that encourages an increase in Chinese business travel and tourism in the US.  And of course, there is the natural inquisitive nature all people have to visit new and interesting places.  As Hansi Men, a Chinese investment immigration lawyer was quoted in Business Insider, “Many Chinese parents want their children to visit America.

The Chinese government takes steps to prepare their citizens for successful journeys.  One example of this is a 64-page book published by China’s National Tourism Administration called “Guidelines on Civilized Travel Abroad”.  The book instructs the Chinese not to force locals to pose for photos, leave footprints on toilet seats, cut lines, pick their noses, or take more than they can eat at buffet tables.  Beyond a long list of ‘don’ts’, the handbook also provides a strict set of ‘do’s’ including using shower curtains in hotels, being punctual if taking part in a tour group, arriving at a banquet hall 15 minutes early and adhering to formal dress codes.  Not just an ‘ettiquette book’, this is actually legal code and travel companies whose clients break the rules can actually be subject to fines as high as $49K!

A number of Chinese websites also provide advice on how to socialize with Americans during their trips to our nation.  A few of these observations were translated by writers of England’s Daily Mail newspaper and are summarized here:

  • Encouragements to address people by their first names
  • Americans ‘deliberately’ do their own laundry and other household functions and are proud to do them.
  • Don’t be bothered by the fact that Americans don’t know anything about China
  • When Americans are in conversation, the expectation is to give the person speaking your complete attention
  • Keep a physical distance of four-feet from other people while in conversation so you are not struck by hand gestures
  • Compliment people on ugly hair cuts or bad photos and seem sincere
  • Americans have few or no social customs. If you do something that is not the norm, people will think you are ‘doing a good job in your own way’.


The Chinese are more like us in the places they like to visit when traveling in America.  See if any of these top ten destinations are not also on your list of favorite spots or maybe on your ‘bucket list’!


  • The Grand Canyon
  • Hawaii
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • New York, NY
  • Niagara Falls
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Universal Studios; Hollywood, CA
  • Washington, DV
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Yosemite National Park


Whether or not any of these are on your family’s travel itinerary this summer, don’t be surprised if you happen to meet more than a few Chinese visitors.  The prevailing trend suggests you’re very likely to.  Be sure and extend to them your warmest personal version of American hospitality.  Just think – new information suggests the Chinese may have actually been here first!  In fact, recent discoveries at Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, NM show evidence that ancient Chinese explorers ‘discovered’ America thousands of years before Columbus ever reached the West Indies.  But this is perhaps information for another blog….

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Chinese Religious Policy 2017

by Joe

Chinese Religious Policy 2017

February 10-18, 2017
Yorba Linda, CA
Word4Asia Consulting International was honored to co-host a delegation of 12 leaders representing the National CCC (Registered Protestant Church) and SARA (State Administration of Religious Affairs for two symposiums which were conducted in both Florida and Southern California last month.
The bulleted points which follow are a sincere attempt to share what was said in public-official forums by the CCC and SARA officials. They will be shared with a minimum of editorial comment. I will not attempt to defend or debate the data, positions or perspectives.
Any errors of content are that of the writer and could be the result of my poor listening skills or error in interpretation.


  • The SARA department sent Mr. Ma who leads department 3, the Islamic department. Mr. Ma was clearly the “lead” person for SARA in these symposiums. This was an interesting choice as the other religious leaders in the delegation were all representing the Protestant churches in China.
  • Mr. Ma’s (SARA) primary intention was to promote religious harmony. He pleaded for mutual understanding between faith groups to further social harmony. He shared that there is a concerted effort in China today to unite the five religions which are sanctioned in China into a single combined force that will assure peace within the country. These five sanctioned religions include Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam, Taoism and Buddhism.
  • The CCC is working to “Sinocize” (make more Chinese) Christianity in China. This is often translated as “localization.” This renewed emphasis strengthens the historic “Three Self Principle” which argues for the Chinese church to be self-governing, self-propagating and self-supporting. The registered church in China encourages their people to make friends and even participate in cross-cultural exchanges. Simultaneously, the objective is for the Chinese Church to be devoid of Western culture and thought.
  • Elder Fu (TSPM chairman) indicated the church has reached a point of stability. After decades of fast, evangelistic effort, the present need is to deepen the education and leadership skills of Chinese pastors. Elder Fu reported that there are now 28 million baptized members in the CCC congregations.
  • One leading Senior Pastor from Beijing shared that the churches have a commitment to both the centrality of Jesus as Savior and the Bible as their authority.
  • One Provincial CCC leader reported that the number of converted Protestants in his province are now approaching a population which is twenty times larger than when China opened up. There are now over 2.4 million believers. In this province, the ratio of ordained pastors to members is 1:6,500.
  • When asked about religious policies for children, a representative from the National CCC reported “there is absolutely no problem with religious education of children today, if it takes place within the church buildings.”
  • When asked about religious broadcasting in China, Elder Fu explained that, as religionists of any sort are a vast minority in China today, it would not be wise to confuse and possibly alienate the wider public of China by promoting religion via radio or television broadcasts. This will not be happening.

For more detailed information and explanation you may contact Word4Asia Consulting International. Office: 714.769.9114.

To be continued…

CCC And SARA Delegation R1
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Introducing Timothy Chan!

by Joe

This month of January has been an exciting one for Word 4 Asia as we welcome our newest team member, and long-time friend, Timothy Chan.

Born and educated in Hong Kong, Timothy comes to us with a rich background in theology and social work.  He is passionate about people, travel and experiencing new things!

Timothy and his wife, Linda, have raised four children.  Their eldest daughter, Wesley, completed her undergraduate studies and is now working abroad in Kyrgyzstan. Stephanie is still in college, studying nursing and biological sciences.  The youngest, Esther, is very involved in working with the poor and plans to attend college in the next eighteen months.  A fourth daughter, Christine, passed away some time ago.  Sadly, Timothy’s wife, Linda also passed away in 2013.  A very talented composer, Linda has left her family with treasured memories of their time together and her love of music.

Having lived a very productive life where he was successful in his prior work, Timothy joins Word 4 Asia with eagerness to find new fulfillment in the work that awaits him here with us.  Timothy is fluent in English, Cantonese and Mandarin and his language skills will be an important asset to us.  We are proud and excited about having Timothy Chan with us on our team!


Add To December Long Time Friend Timothy Chan Will Be Joining The W4a Team In 2017 R1
Tim Chan 1 Church Service
Tim Chan 3 Wenzhou Church Preaching
Tim Chan 2 16septkorea With See Young Lee
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Successful Travel in China

Word 4 Asia has extensive experience arranging and leading group trips into China. With all our experience …

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The Language of Trust

Western businesses trying to build their businesses in China must learn to network the Chinese way. There are four very important …

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Chinese Traveling in the USA

Summer is upon us and in many world cultures, this is the season for vacation travel. In previous blogs on this website, we have written …

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