How to Build Trust With Your Chinese Clothing Supplier

Whenever you are working with another business that is in another country, it can be a difficult partnership to navigate. But it’s a partnership that you can learn a lot from if you take the time to. Building trust is crucial to any partnership, especially in businesses. There are cultural differences that you need to be sensitive to when working with a Chinese supplier, as there are significant cultural differences between the Western and Eastern world. The goal here is to help you navigate these challenging waters to build the strongest relationship possible with your Chinese supplier.

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Understanding the Differences Between These Business Cultures

One of the first things that needs to be addressed is the distinct differences between Chinese and American business cultures. An important thing to remember when you are just starting to form this partnership is that you need to have a solid reputation and a personal connection in order to truly develop a professional relationship. It can take some time for you to build up a really strong relationship with your Chinese supplier, so you really need to be patient.

Patience is especially important because Chinese businesses don’t just trust other businesses, something that is more common in the American business culture. They will start off by withholding information from you or will prefer to stick with non-verbal communication When you display patience and respect, these are characteristics that your Chinese supplier is looking for in order to develop that bond that is essential to a strong partnership.

What makes Chinese businesses so hesitant to trust, unlike American businesses? The reason is because in America, there are very stringent business practices and laws that can protect the business if they take a risk on a company and it backfires on them. Legal rules like these aren’t in place in Chinese business culture. The Chinese business culture is one that is deeply rooted in tradition. As a result, Chinese business owners tend to be more hesitant when it comes to new partnerships. This does change as the American company proves themselves “worthy” through honest, polite, and respectful exchanges.

Another significant difference to consider is that while Americans tend to be more blunt, Chinese businesspeople tend to be more reserved and avoid conflict as much as possible. It can be a good idea to just follow the lead of your Chinese supplier until you have earned their acceptance and trust, avoiding social risks that you may normally take.

Chinese Government and the Nation’s Commerce

Another important thing to know is that when it comes to the economy, the Chinese government tends to be more involved than what you see in America. What this means for you is that if you are intending on selling in the Chinese market, you should understand everything that you need to know about SOEs (State-Owned Enterprises). You need to know how these businesses work and the ways that the business structures in China differ from what you’re used to in America.

The Chinese government is currently in the process of becoming a more consumer-driven economy rather than the investment-based economy that they have practiced for decades. They have started to encourage small business ownership and entrepreneurship, but this doesn’t necessarily apply to foreign businesses. You may have some struggles with the local governments until you develop trust with them.

Developing “Guanxi”

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“Guanxi” is a term that is used in China to describe the process of developing a relationship. This is another major difference when compared to Western companies. Western companies usually build their professional relationships based on their first introduction and from this moment, they begin “talking shop” right away. However, in Eastern business cultures they need time to evaluate the other party to determine if this is a partnership that they want to work with.

This does require patience, as it can take weeks and several meetings before you can get the business contract signed and the partnership begins.

Things to Avoid

A major misconception that people have is that they just need to learn about the customs and traditions that the Chinese businesses follow. Developing a relationship, guanxi, is a far more complex concept that requires more than understanding the proper etiquette of Chinese businesses. It’s about building a deeper connection where the Chinese business really feels like they know you. Here are some common mistakes American businesses make so that you can understand them and avoid them in your future interactions:

It’s crucial that you pay close attention to the titles and respect the hierarchy. Identify who the most senior executive is and follow their lead over anyone else in the meeting or room. Eastern cultures are very respectful of this hierarchy, so it matters that you do as well.

You should never create any conflict with another. You should never “call” anyone out. This is particularly true when you are in front of other people. The concept of “saving face” is one that is essential in Eastern business etiquette. This can create a situation that is embarrassing and awkward for the parties. Discomfort is a quick way to kill any deal with a Chinese supplier.

While gift-giving is important to this culture, you should know that it isn’t about how expensive or lavish the gift is. In fact, the more lavish, the more likely they think you are being superficial. Instead, focus on the practical when dealing with gifts and in your interactions.


Dealing with international partners can be the best way to get things done. Unfortunately, these international relationships can be extremely complex to navigate on your own. This is especially true when you are dealing with the differences between Eastern and Western businesses. By understanding these differences and the best advice on how to navigate forming these complex relationships, you can gain a business partnership that will significantly improve your business. The advice here can be very helpful in helping you build trust and develop a solid relationship with your Chinese supplier.


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