Taking it personally

The opportunity for multinational corporations to do business with the world's most populous country recently improved with China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). But in China, the standard for accountability among business partners and associates is not governed by contract law, but by Quan Xi-a term referring to relationship networks. Quan Xi is a traditional and personalized approach that relies on trust, loyalty, and reciprocity, according to Marie-Laure Liao, founder of Logic International, a Hong Kong-based firm that specializes in implementing projects in China and Southeast Asia. Whereas Western professions tend to separate work from other areas of life, the Chinese and other Quan Xi followers see relationships in a more holistic fashion. Creating Quan Xi relationships with Chinese businesses may require a willingness to develop personal friendships, trust, and rapport, as well as participate in activities outside of work, such as dinners or informal get-togethers. Companies hoping to do business in China need to understand the cultural value of Quan Xi, and make the commitments in time and energy necessary to create these quality relationships.
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