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How To Establish Trust In China

Dragon Social > Doing Business in China  > How To Establish Trust In China
How To Establish Trust In China

What does trust mean in China?


We all think we know what trust means. To many, trust is key to businesses, but it is usually given straight away. We believe that while trust is earned when doing business with someone trust is implicit.


In China, however, the system of cultivating trust and nurturing good relationships is very different. In China, trust is not immediately given. While in other countries, trust may be given quickly, and taken away quickly, in China it is the opposite.


Establishing trust in China


Guanxi is a phrase that most businesses know, but don’t fully understand in the modern context. While Chinese businesses still value trust, the landscape is changing.


Guanxi has no direct translation in English. Many have tried to define it, throwing around phrases like, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” and “If you scratch my back then I’ll scratch your back”. This, however, is far too simplistic.


Guanxi is built on understanding. It is not about socialising and courting but rather about understanding your clients. Traditionally, people moving into China have used parties and presents to cultivate it, but I don’t think this is the right move.


In reality, it is more about understanding the motivations of your new partner, as well as trusting their actions and values. You won’t get very far throwing lavish parties for companies, but you will get far cultivating smaller parties where you discuss your personal lives.


Understanding values are key to creating Guanxi. If people in China can understand and relate to your values, then you will get much further.


Understanding Guanxi-



Guanxi: building trust in China


The concept of Guanxi has been pulled apart by business people across the world, and yet we can never really agree on a translation.


In some senses, it is good to think of Guanxi in terms of family relationships. In China, they tend to have stronger connections with extended family, and this principle can tentatively be applied to business practices.


For instance, you will have a better chance of creating Guanxi if you are able to introduce your Chinese connection to different members of your family and your business. Again, this will demonstrate your values.


Forbes has stated that guanxi is a moral obligation, and this is why it is similar to family relations. You are obliged to uphold good business practices because you have already established trust.


Are there differences between B2B and B2C?


The simple answer? Yes and no. In both B2B and B2C trust is important, but how you go about gaining that trust is very different.


Building personal connections, however, is paramount. There are lots of ways to connect people but WeChat provides an excellent platform for companies to build rapport with different customers. Businesses on WeChat also have the ability to build a personal connection with different businesses on the app.


Establishing trust in China


I think that what is key, however, is understanding that in both situations you need to have reviews. Reviews of business practices and products are paramount to building Guanxi. 


Building trust for B2B-


Guanxi is probably only necessary for B2B relationships, and there are several ways that you can cultivate and create good guanxi.


Use Guanxi to build trust in China


Before we go through tips it is important to understand the difference between head and heart trust.

Head trust tends to be what most businesses are used to. Essentially, this is the kind of trust that comes from a position. Most people tend to trust the people they do business with because they just do.


Business culture in the west tends to focus on this more than other cultures, however, it tends to be the predominant modus operandi.


However, in China, there tends to be a higher focus on heart trust. This, as the name would imply, involves trust that comes familial connections. In China, they will not trust you simply because of status or position.


When moving into the Chinese market you really need to remember this, as it can get frustratingly long. While it may seem that you are getting nowhere it is important to remind yourself that it may take longer than you are used to.


Related read: How to use WeChat for B2B marketing 


1. Knowledge-


They say that knowledge is power, and this is certainly true in China. Knowledge is key because it shows that you are being honest. 


Knowledge has two distinct concepts- your own knowledge and knowledge of the field that you are working in.


While you should not prescribe to the idea that education is key if you have a good education and a long history of experience in your field then you will go far. This is why many Chinese businessmen and women have their academic credentials in their email signatures.


Establishing trust in China Knowledge



2. Experience-


Following on from knowledge is the experience that you have. Experience in your industry is key to developing trust.


This seems like a fairly straight forward concept as it translates across all cultures. However, what experience you have in China is crucial.


Industry Experience in China


For instance, University support drives business much more than any other country. Jack Ma, the head of Alibaba, established by a department of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation.


3. Likability-


The key to likeable is to be authentic. If you focus too much on not offending people then you will come across as inauthentic.


authentic brand in China


Chinese business partners will generally be very warm and welcoming but be aware that this is not a sign of acceptance. This is a general point of politeness.


Part of being likeable is building a rapport. By establishing rapport you are creating a system of personal relationships both within and without the business venture.


These personal relationships will enhance the exchange of information. It will also motivate the parties involved to focus less on opportunity and more on each other’s interests.


So what does this all mean?


Ultimate, building trust for B2B depends highly on understanding and values. Being able to express your values, and having your Chinese partner understand those values is key to establishing Guanxi.


Build trust in China for B2B Businesses


However, these come with a warning. Traditional methods such as parties and presents may not work in the current business climate in China. You may either come across and fake or your partner may come to expect these social events, while no trust is built.


Building trust for B2C-


Another really important element of trust in the business sector is how consumers develop trust.


While this process tends to be similar to other countries, there are certain parts of B2C trust that differ in China.


While Guanxi may seem complicated, in reality, it’s actually a very logical process, where as B2C trust development may seem simple, but in reality can be very complicated.


Visible on Search Engines


The most important thing to understand is that search engines and the e-commerce platform that you use play a massive role in developing trust.


Being listed on Baidu is key for Chinese consumers, as it suggests that you are a reputable business, for more on how to do this visit our homepage!


Search Engines Marketing in China


High User Ratings


Ratings and recommendations are crucial. Most consumers tend to do some research before they buy something. However, in China, this practice is done with almost every purchase.


Having good ratings online will help people to build trust because it shows that you are providing a good service.


Equally, much of millennial recommendations tend to be through word of mouth and people telling their friends and family about your products.


Cultivating good relations with customers on sites like WeChat and Weibo allow you to build rapport with customers, giving them a positive image of your customer service.


High-Quality Content


High-quality marketing is another essential part of building trust with Chinese consumers.


Social media is king in China, however, due to censorship, Chinese social media differs greatly from other countries. Posting high-quality content on WeChat and Baidu is a great way to generate exposure as well as establish that you are a reputable company.


If you are selling some products or services that require more education and heavy investment, eg. Selling real estate properties to Chinese, quality and in-depth content is a must to convert customers. There are some emerging platforms which are very suitable for influencing these target groups, please check out Zhihu marketing if you want to know more.


Social Media Presence


Chinese consumers rely heavily on social media. If you are not online, if there are no references about you on Baidu, then they will simply not buy your product.


Consumers want to be able to research your product, and if they are unable to find any kind of platform to look at comments, then they won’t buy your product.


For Chinese consumers not having an online listing or any social media presence is the kiss of death.


However, there are several ways in which you can use social media to establish trust. Having a WeChat profile is a really great way for you to communicate with consumers, as well as showing that you are a trustworthy company.


Another great platform to have a profile is Weibo. The more platforms that you can create a platform on the better! If you have a great social media presence then you will look more trustworthy.



Establish trust in China through WeChat


Consumers building trust is a simple concept, Chinese consumers want to be able to read about people who have used your product. Do not underestimate the importance of social media in this process.


For B2C trust it all comes down to social media. This is where you can build rapport with your customers, and where you can build a database for your company.


Your products need to have positive reviews from real customers, and this can only really be done on WeChat and online reviews.


So what does this mean for your business?


Establishing trust in China


It can be a very scary task moving into the Chinese market. Consumers and businesses tend to operate in a very different way to other countries.


In terms of B2B, it is important to establish connections in China. Outsourcing your marketing can be a really effective way of doing this. Instead of you establishing the connections, you can ask a native company to do it for you.


This eliminates the possibility that you will make a social faux pas, and it will also generally be much quicker. This is because other businesses will already have a trusted connection to your marketing company.


For those of you who wish to establish trust between consumers and your business, outsourcing can also be a smart move.


If you outsource your marketing campaigns then you will have access to a company who understand the market implicitly and will be able to provide you with the correct social media platforms.


Outsourcing will also allow you to focus more on your other marketing campaigns. Moving into a new country can take a lot of time and money. Outsourcing is generally a fixed cost that allows you creative control, but you don’t have to do the brunt work.


If you would like to read more about our services, and how we can successfully advertise your company to the Chinese market, visit dragon social to find out more!




Imogen Ursell
Imogen Ursell

Imogen is currently working at Dragon Social as the digital marketing content liaison. She has written previously for The Tab and Babe. She enjoys playing hockey, going out with friends and hiking.

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