Your Pocket Guide to Networking in China

Networking is very important for any student or professional who wants to make the most of their time in China. As the saying goes, good “guan xi” (connections or networking) is essential to doing long-term, profitable business or having a good career in China.

As networking events are becoming more and more popular in major Chinese cities such as Shanghai, we thought we would provide you with some useful phrases in Chinese and some top tips to help you in your next networking event.

Though it might not be necessary for you to speak Chinese, it makes a wonderful first impression! Let’s dive in!

How to Exchange Business Cards?

Exchanging business cards or 名片吧 (wǒmen jiāohuàn míngpiàn ba) is a very important part of self-introductions in China because business cards 名片(míngpiàn) are seen to be an extension of the individual.

So, if you are in a networking event, it is always a good idea to have plenty on hand. To give your card, remember to hold your card with two hands and have the side with Chinese printed on it facing towards the person you are giving it to.

Remember: If you are giving your card to a person superior to you, you can say  您好,是我的名片 (nín hǎo, zhè shì wǒ de míngpiàn) as this is a more formal way to introduce yourself.

When you are offered a business card, you should receive it with two hands. The custom of exchanging business cards is a great way to ‘break the ice’ and it gives you the opportunity to further converse.  For example a good phrase to say after exchanging business cards is: 谢谢,非常高兴认识 (xièxiè, fēicháng gāoxìng rènshí nín)  – Thank you, it’s very nice to meet you.

Quick tip: Your business card should ideally be both in Chinese and English and it should have the following:

  • Job title
  • Company Name
  • Email Address
  • Mobile number
  • We Chat ID or QR code
  • Your Chinese name (if applicable)

How to Make Conversation?                

Engaging in conversation at networking events is a great way to get to expand your circle of contacts. Some phrases that might be useful to get the conversation going are:

  • How should I call you?
    • 怎么称呼您? (zěn me chēng hu nín)
  • What is your job?
    • 你做什么的工作? (nǐ zuò shénme yàng de gōngzuò?)
  • What department do you work in?
    • 你在什么部工作? (nǐ zài shénme bùmén gōngzuò?)
  • What is your major?
    • 什么专业? (nǐ dú shénme zhuānyè?) 

Other phrases that might come in handy are:

  • I really liked your speech
    • 我非常喜你的演 (wǒ fēicháng xǐhuan nǐ de yǎnjiǎngle)
  • Have you eaten yet?
    • 你吃(nǐ chīfàn le ma?)
  • Are you a local?
    • 你是本地人吗?(nǐ shì běndì rén ma?)

Let’s dive in more! Complementing someone by saying ‘I really liked your speech’ is a good way to engage in small talk in Chinese professional settings. It is also an important part of ‘giving face’ 面子 (gěi miànzi). Especially if you are approaching someone who is more superior to you, thought-out compliments are important!

Though it might sound strange to ask, ‘have you eaten yet’, in China it is a very common question. This phrase doesn’t always imply the intent to eat together and sometimes it just means ‘how are you’? Either way, it is a good thing to ask and if you are attending a networking event that serves food it also helps to  initiate  further conversation.

The last phrase ‘are you a local’ is also another useful conversation starter. By asking this question you can find out if the person lives in the same city. If you happen to live in the same area this could further benefit your professional career.

How to Pitch Your Company or Yourself?

While it is important to have modesty and humility, avoid being too reserved and ‘cool’ when networking in China as this can be quite off-putting.

Instead, you should be enthusiastic and demonstrate what you have to bring to the table, or what the company you are representing has to offer.

It’s always a good idea to go with a purpose to any networking event.  Chinese professionals will be keen to hear about you or your company and will be curious to hear about your work or experience in China.

Indeed, if you are representing an established brand it is always good to emphasize your strengths in the market.

That said whether you are introducing your company or your own personal brand, the key is to always keep in mind what the other party’s interests are so you can avoid being too forward about your own business intentions and focus just on building the relationship.

Plus, if there is an area of growth where you can help them overcome difficulties, let them know that they could benefit from you.

Some phrases that might be useful here are:

  • Our main product is
    • 主要品是(wǒmen zhǔyào chǎnpǐn shì…)
  • We’ve been around for 10 years and have great brand recognition
    • 公司已成立十多年了,在美国很有名 (wǒmen gōngsī yǐjīng chénglì èrshí duō niánle, zài měiguó hěn yǒumíng)

How to Say Goodbye? 

If you happen to be in a conversation that you think is not really going anywhere or vice-versa, its best to be polite and move on.  In this scenario, you can say 我先走了,下次再系吧 (wǒ xiān zǒule, xià cì zài liánxì ba) which meansexcuse me, I have to go now, let’s catch up next time’.

 But if the conversation has gone  really well, then you can end the conversation by saying, let’s keep in contact – 系吧 (wǒmen zài liánxì ba).

WeChat, as I’m sure you are all aware, is the best way to exchange contacts in China, so be sure to use it. By using WeChat, you can follow-up with whomever you have met, and it is recommended to send a follow-up message the next day after the event, as this can help build the relationship and further extend your network.

So here is a useful phrase to learn, that is, add my WeChat, – 加我的微信 (jiā wǒ de wéi xìn). Tip: Allow them to scan your WeChat QR code or give them your ID. LinkedIn is also popular with recruiters, but it is easier to use WeChat as then you can add different people whilst you network around the event on the go.

Final Thoughts

So that’s it! You’ve made it through your first networking event in China.

Of course, this is just an introductory guide, but we hope you find it useful. Please feel free to comment down below any other phrases you’ve learnt that might be helpful to other students and go check out our other business themed blogs.