Make Sure You Stick to Safe Subjects - Definitely No Politics; THE CHINA CONNECTION

Article excerpt

It doesn't matter whether it's Birmingham or Beijing, when it comes to business dealings there is always going to be a point when talk turns from corporate affairs to less pressing matters.

The art of social conversation can, on occasions, be the perfect ice-breaker or an ideal way to finish a meeting on a less serious note.

When dealing in China, however, it is crucial you don't say anything that may offend or upset those you are talking to.

It's best to stick to very safe subjects like family, your home town or your experiences so far in China.

I would say it's probably best in any business dealings, be they home or abroad, to avoid the subject of politics. In the UK, however, you might be able to drop in a joke about Tony Blair or Gordon Brown and pass comment on current affairs.

In China, you would be best to avoid it unless you know the person extremely well.

The Chinese are extremely nervous about having political discussions and it would certainly be advisable not to criticise China or its leaders.

Also, where some jokes in the UK maybe appropriate it is best to tread very carefully in China.

Fairly bland jokes are best but even then they can be lost in translation.

They are, however, much better than anything of a sexual nature as China is still quite a prudish nation. It's also okay to poke fun at yourself slightly.

But again be aware that you do not want to weaken your standing or make light of your company in the eyes of your Chinese counterparts.

So, while not wishing to make it sound like you cannot enjoy light-hearted conversation at all, it is best to err on the side of caution.

Words are not the only thing that might offend.

When the Chinese are providing corporate entertainment, they have several rules and while you won't be expected to remember all of them, they are certainly worth bearing in mind. …