Year of the Dragon offers lessons in business when working with Chinese companies

January 17, 2012

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. —The Chinese New Year is a good time for American businesses to think about cultural business practices when working with representatives from China, the second largest economy in the world, says a Purdue University expert.

"This year is the Year of the Dragon, and in the Chinese culture, the dragon represents success and power," says Wei Hong, professor of Chinese and director of the Confucius Institute at Purdue. "That said, the Chinese is a modest culture and anytime effort is made to understand the culture, it is greatly appreciated. Cultural understanding can be a strong foundation to launch successful business opportunities or community partnerships."

As part of her work through the Confucius Institute, Hong specializes in working with American business leaders, government officials and educators to help them understand Chinese culture so they are better prepared when traveling to China.

Hong provides a few cultural tips:

* When accepting or presenting business cards, hand or receive the card with both hands. Make a slight bow, take time to review the card, and then comment on the card by acknowledging the person's title or name.

* Handshaking is a common practice upon greeting.

* It's customary for American and Chinese cultures to exchange gifts from their respective countries. Wrap gifts in red because it is a festive color during the New Year or other traditional holidays. Avoid white that indicates mourning and has negative connotations.

* Don't give a clock because it has negative connotations. In Mandarin Chinese "zhong," a clock has the same phonetics as "zhong," death or termination.

The Chinese New Year begins Jan. 23. The Confucius Institute at Purdue is one of 350 such institutes worldwide that are sponsored by the Chinese Language Council International to develop relationships and understanding between countries.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723,

Source: Wei Hong, 765-494-3859,