4 Tips to Expand into China

1. Understand Regional Differences

If you told people from the northern part of China to be responsible global citizens, they probably think you’re insane; if you did the same to people from the southern part of China, however, they’d be more receptive towards this message. China is extremely large, and it is nearly impossible to expand into the whole country at once. Study the languages, cultures, preferences and spending patterns in different regions. Marketing to people from, say, The Greater Bay Area, is completely different from marketing to people from Beijing. 

2. Understand the Social Platforms

The Chinese, like people everywhere else, are obsessed with their socials. The main difference is that the platforms that everyone else uses are almost non-existent in China. Instead of Instagram, they share things on WeChat. Instead of Twitter, they use Weibo. Instead of Twitch, live streamers use 17. The most downloaded app in the US in October 2018 was Tiktok (Douyin in Chinese) – and most globally viral “challenges” started from there, not from IG or Facebook.

3. Study Online Slangs

Every country has their own slangs but Chinese ONLINE slangs are a whole different thing – it’s how people bond with each other. If a foreign company understands and SPEAKS their slang, it’s almost instant business. If you’re marketing on the socials mentioned above, besides making sure your translations are correct, make sure you add a slang or two. 

4. Importance of “Face”

Bringing things back to the offline world, the thing that Chinese people are most concerned about in business (or otherwise) is “face” (mianzi). This concept can be roughly translated as “dignity” or “pride” in English. If you make a Chinese person “lose face”, it can almost mean you’re an enemy for life (this is definitely not an exaggeration). Never say “no” directly, instead say “maybe” or “let me think about that”; never openly criticise someone’s opinion; and never, ever forget the hierarchy in every situation, even during “casual meals”.