If modern China was a person, it wouldn’t have reached its midlife crisis.In fact, it might not have even entered the workforce, since modern China is only 20 years old. Until Deng Xiaoping, the retired Chairman of China stated, “To be rich is to be glorious,” China’s economic reform had stagnated.
But with a single statement, Deng forced the hand of his successors, and economic reform grunted, slow at first, into second gear.
Now, this (somewhat) market-driven economic powerhouse is less than a decade away from stealing the mantle of ‘GDP goliath’ from the USA. By 2016, says the IMF, The People’s Republic of China, will once again, return to status of world leader. And let me remind you again—it’s barely out of its teens.
1. Don’t put business cards in your shirt pocket.
Anyone who’s been in China, even for a few days, knows that business cards are exchanged with two hands and an ever-so-slight bow. But many forget to show the business card the respect it (apparently) deserves upon receipt. Instead of putting it in your shirt pocket, the recipient expects you to lay it out on the table before you. If you are standing, be sure to hold the card with two hands, until you are out of eye-shot—and then do with it what you wish.
2. A folded check is void.
A one mao coin (approximately 1.5 cents) is worth more than a million dollar check, if that check happens to be folded. Don’t go slipping a check into your top pocket, since the bank clerk won’t accept it. Instead, gently slide it into a special check holder, with the care of a museum curator, and make sure the signature is in black ink while you’re at it, since many tellers will balk at the sign of blue ink—Strange, but true.
3. Receipt first, money second.
The word for “invoice” and “receipt” in China is the same thing—fapiao. For this reason, many customers require a tax receipt before any payment has been made or any service or product has been delivered, just so they can start the billing process. And since taxes are paid monthly, this means your firm can be paying tax on services and products you haven’t been paid for before—a potential cash flow nightmare.
4. Foreigners will have to pay unemployment benefits.
A new law passed in 2011 means that foreigners who receive a salary within China must now pay unemployment benefits alongside their normal income tax. While this law has yet to be enforced (like so many others) it is likely that when it is, it will be retroactive, so start saving today.
So what’s weird about this law? After all, a citizen—permanent or temporary—should pay their way, right? Well, since the residence permit for foreigners is tied directly to their employer, without a job a visa is null and void. How one is expected to receive unemployment benefits, if they are no longer a resident was an oxymoron that the employment bureau has yet to explain: Stay tuned.
5. A foreign face, any one, will do.
Back in 2010 Peter, an Australian living in Shanghai was invited to assist in the opening of a convention. While he had no authority in the field of ‘xiao longxia’—a small fresh water shrimp—he was told this qualification was unnecessary and all he had to do was read a few scripted words to an audience. That ‘audience’ ended up being 35,000 locals in a sports stadium, who were incredibly verbal in their appreciation for the kind words from who they thought was the ‘European Chairman for the Association of Fresh Water Crustaceans.’
I bet they never told you this in your Lonely Planet.
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