Parklaan 46 B-2300 Turnhout, Belgium   +32 14 720275


Business in China: the concept of face

Everybody always says: “China is the future. If you know Chinese you will have a great opportunity and many doors will open for you.” That might be true but one always has to be careful and be aware of the many cultural differences that might exist. One of these cultural differences is the existence of ‘face’.

What is face?

Face is a concept deeply rooted in Chinese society. It’s not literally your face but a metaphor for a person’s reputation among its peers. It defines a person's status, reputation and is a symbol of personal pride. Chinese people consider it as one of their most important concepts.

Chinese business culture

In Chinese culture a lot of weight is given to rank and hierarchy. That is why face is such an important notion in Chinese business culture. In the West the boss of a company might openly criticize an employee’s idea or proposal during a business meeting. In China however this kind of direct criticism will be very uncommon because it would make the person being criticized lose face. Therefore criticism is often expressed in private or addressed to indirectly in order not to hurt the criticized person’s reputation.


Guanxi or personal relationships are also considered very important in Chinese business culture. The objective of these relationships is to gain mutual benefits. Giving face will be used to become part of a new social circle. If you can get the approval of a person of a high social circle, in other words, he is giving you face, than this will give you an opportunity to be accepted by their business associates.

As a conclusion, we could say that when doing business in China you have to be prepared to face any cultural challenges that might come your way. One of the biggest differences is the notion of ‘face’. It is part of Chinese society and will be used to gain more favorable opportunities while doing business.

For more info about this topic you are very welcome to contact us.

< back to overview