“Toto, we’re Not in Kansas Anymore”
“Toto, we’re Not in Kansas Anymore”
Indeed, when you visit China on business, it is not like a trip to Topeka, so you
will need to do your homework, especially when organizing a meeting. Where
you meet is not nearly as significant as how you conduct yourself and how you
understand the conduct of the potential Chinese clients. Keep in mind,
however, that conduct will be significantly different in a hotel conference
room than at a dinner. For the purpose of this book, we will limit our discussion
to business meetings in the traditional sense, not a business dinner.
A word about dinner meetings: The Chinese people generally do not discuss
business during meals. However, they use the opportunity to be “socially
probative,” a term that I have coined for this specific occasion. You may think
that you are going to accomplish some business objective, but your potential
clients will make no formal commitments during a dinner.xviii
A Few Things to Understand Before Your Meeting
The Chinese culture is a complex study. However, knowing a few points of
courteous conduct can go a long way toward building credibility for yourself,
your company, and your EB-5 project. Here are a few pointers, in no particular
order of importance.
Always schedule meetings well in advance. Do not schedule during
Chinese holidays. Stick to your schedule even though the attendees
do not confirm. They will often wait until the last minute to do so.
Be on time. As one of my mentors used to say, “If you’re not early,
Be patient. Your Chinese clients or hosts may expect you to be on
time every time, but that does not mean that they will be. Don’t
worry about the disparity. Do your part.
Be persistent. The Chinese are experts at delay and prolongation.
Never point at anyone or anything. Most etiquette guides will advise
you to not point with your index finger. I recommend you do not
point at all. The Chinese people find pointing as an offensive gesture.
Think “Gesture” Instead Of “Point ”
Practice gesturing with your open hand. You will connect the thought of
gesturing with your hand and you won’t have to try to break a life-long
habit of the association of pointing and using a finger.
Be prepared. Here’s where your Boy Scout training is put to good
o Have an agenda prepared and delivered in advance.
o Have all the documentation you need, have it assembled in
a logical format, and have enough material for everyone in
o All printed material should be available in both English and
No whistling, joking, back-slapping, hugging or finger snapping.
While none of these are appropriate for any professional meeting,
they are especially objectionable to Chinese people.
Practice your poker face. You will need it so that you do not reveal
emotions or reactions during your meeting.
Inside the Conference Room
Seating arrangements are important to the Chinese people and are typically
by rank. In a conference room setting, the guest should be seated directly
opposite to the host with his higher-ranking business associates or family
members sitting close. The highest-ranking people from either delegation
should be seated in the middle of a conference table, not at the ends as most
Americans are accustomed to doing.
Once everyone is seated, expect to spend a few minutes with ice-breaking chitchat.
This, too, is the customary way of the Chinese.
Learn to say “knee men how.” It’s actually transliterated as “Nimen hao” and
it means “Hello, everyone.” Your Chinese guests will appreciate your
gesture. If you are greeting just one person, you may say “knee how”
Now that you have got your meeting off to a good start, redistribute your
agenda. It is very important that you know your agenda and that you stick to it.
Build it from a strong foundation of major points to minor points. This may
unsettle your guests a bit, but if you disregard this advice, you may find yourself
chasing rabbit holes until you feel like you are in Wonderland.
Let me re-emphasize the importance of patience in the meeting. Never show
frustration-or any other emotion, for that matter. When it comes to obtaining
an EB-5 visa or Green Cards, or investing in a business, your potential clients
will not likely be in a hurry unless they are fleeing the law. By the same token,
they will interpret your pressure to move quickly as a sign that they should be
wary of your objectives and even your integrity. You may be judged more by
their impression of you than by the EB-5 opportunity that you are offering.
Remember the Objective
Both American and Chinese businessmen are so eager to carve out a piece
of the EB-5 pie that they all too often forget what the objective of the client
is. Your potential client is in a position to invest in anything he or she wishes.
The point of your meeting is to introduce them to and inform them about
the EB-5 visa program, the objective of which is to obtain permanent
residency in the United States. Investment in your EB-5 project is the means
to that end. Make sure that your presentation is geared accordingly. Present
the USCIS program. Ensure that they understand how it works in general,
then present your investment opportunities as a specific way to qualify for
Two Things to Keep In Mind
High net worth Chinese people already know about the EB-5 scams. Expect them
to be wary. You would be too, if you thought that you might be going to pay large
fees to invest money in a project that may not only fail financially, but also fail to
get them U.S. residency status.
Always speak very clearly and in unambiguous terms. These people may not
understand English, but that does not mean that they are stupid. A friend of
mine was with another representative of his company at AutoMechanika, the
world’s largest automotive parts trade show, in Frankfurt, Germany. The other
rep was getting frustrated because he could not make the foreign-languagespeaking
customer understand what he was saying. The rep was trying to
explain that a particular truck component was available in three versions, i.e.,
good, better, and best. As he spoke louder (How does louder make something
more understandable?), he pointed to the first component and said, “Chevy!”
He pointed to the second and said, “Buick!” Finally, he pointed to the third and
said, “Cadillac!” The customer looked confused and said, “No!” The rep said,
“I give up,” and walked away. The customer turned to my friend, pointed to
the premium version. Shaking his head, he said in broken English, “Stupid man.
Not for Cadillac. For truck.” Don’t mistake misunderstanding for stupidity. You
will be the one who appears to be stupid.
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