Culture Shock! China - A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette, 2nd Edition

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64 CultureShock! China

nicer homes, nicer cars, overseas education opportunities
for children, preferred jobs for family members, and if the
cards are played right during your career, a well-funded
retirement posting that you can leverage into a personal
business opportunity.
Power also comes from the respect and trust of those that
know you. People of authority who make good decisions,
offer good advice and help others when they are able are
also revered. As they help people around them to achieve
greater personal success, those that they help make sure they
are taken care of. This is the kind of power that a university
professor, doctor or senior businessman can have. They are
in a position to help people improve their lives, in return they
win life-long loyalty and reciprocation when needed.
In this vein, there is one other term that is important to
have a conceptual grasp of when interacting with Chinese,
this is the word mianzi, which roughly translates into self-
respect or pride, but when spoken of in English is literally
called ‘ face’. When you embarrass, put down, insult or
demean a Chinese, especially in front of another person,
you have made them lose face. Although they smile through
it, thank you for pointing out their error, or never change
their facial expression, it is a sore that will fester. It will not
be forgotten.
There is a fine line to be walked in offering criticism or
advice in China without making the other person lose face.
The first step is to assure that you have a substantial build-up
of goodwill and trust with the other person. The second is
to be very clear as to the benefit of the criticism to the other
person. The third, make sure you give feedback in a private
place where no others will be privy to the comments.
Before giving the feedback or making an accusation, ask
questions to clarify any points that you may have missed
that led you to judge the situation unfairly. Finally, make
your statement and follow quickly by asking what the other
person thinks of the comments that you made. Ask them to
speak frankly.
Chinese are so sensitive to ‘face’ that they will not make
you lose it without cause. If you do find yourself in a situation
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