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Updated: 28 Jan 2021

Negotiation with Chinese – Business Concessions



How should you react when a Chinese negotiator simply repeats his position without proposing concessions?

Roger from Spain


Why should he propose concessions? His behaviour looks perfectly professional and clever to me. It has put the foreign team on the defensive. Nice one. It might also be the case that the foreigner has introduced "positional negotiation" far too early. If so, that makes me feel that the foreign team has been quite naive - naive in that they expect a sort of tit for that, the Chinese "have" to give a concession now that the foreigners have "so properly" put their position on the table.

That usually means that there is simply not enough substantive "meat and bones", arguments, to sustain or justify the foreign position. In other words, the foreign team (and probably the Chinese as well, but you never know) are quite under-prepared.

My book, The Chinese Negotiator, provides a 12 step preparation process (chapter 11, see outline on page 212, and detail on page 222), which includes completing and presenting a "Comprehensive Opening Statement" (COS). Please read that. If a team prepares and presents a COS [ideally, prior to presenting their opening position]they will be better prepared for this kind of situation than this foreign team seems to be. If the foreign negotiators are stuck wondering how to react to the Chinese negotiators, they might still have a chance to use a COS.

In general, everyone can learn from this experience - play the COS cards early, the positional ones much later. Well before the positional "cards", the real work should be devoted to building mutual understanding through personal relationship and friendship building. There might also be a case for the foreign team to change its leader, if he is responsible for their present position. If the foreign position allows for concessions, that raises other issues - but there is simply not enough information for me to say any more.

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