Loughborough University
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Regional Chinese negotiation differences in intra- and international negotiations

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posted on 2013-12-09, 13:17 authored by Lianghui Lei
As China emerges as a major player on the international business scene, it is becoming increasingly important for Western negotiators to understand how the Chinese negotiate business deals. Existing knowledge regarding the Chinese negotiation style is largely based on considering China as one single country and the Chinese as to negotiate in one homogeneous way. Regional differences in the Chinese negotiation style have traditionally been overlooked in the literature. Guided by a negotiation analysis approach, this thesis conducts an exploratory study of the diversity of the Chinese negotiation style from a regional sub-cultural perspective. It suggests four characteristics of the Chinese negotiation style based on the frameworks of international business negotiations and the Chinese cultural roots and values. This thesis investigates five research questions, which address the characteristics of regional negotiation styles and the consequences of these different styles in relation to Sino-Western negotiations. A case study research strategy is employed to study four regions in China, including the Northern, the Eastern, the Southern and the Central region. Each case was studied using three research methods: semi-structured interviews, secondary documents, and negotiation experiments. Interview data analysis focuses on the perceptions of the Chinese negotiators, the Chinese government official, and the foreign negotiators regarding regional negotiation styles, whereas the experiments examine the students cognitive information on regional differences. The results confirm that regional negotiation styles exist in China. The findings show that Northern and Central negotiators have the Chinese negotiation style in the literature. They place emphasis on relationship and face and show low time-sensitivity and risk-taking propensity. On the contrary, Eastern and Southern negotiators are extremely task-oriented and deal-focused, which means they place little value on relationship and face in negotiations. Differences also exist between the two groups of business-oriented negotiators as Southern negotiators have higher time-sensitivity and risk-taking propensity than Eastern negotiators. Differences in historical and geographical backgrounds are found to be the key drivers in the forming of these regional negotiation styles. Importantly, the experiment results show that, in contrast to the conventional idea, Western negotiators might find it easier to negotiate with the relationship-focused Chinese than with the deal-focused Chinese. This is because Northern and Central negotiators appear to be cooperative in Sino-Western negotiations, whereas Eastern and Southern negotiators tend to use a competitive approach. This thesis provides a number of contributions to the existing literature. First, it provides a better understanding of the overall picture of the Chinese negotiation behaviour and fine-tunes the Chinese negotiation style from a regional sub-cultural perspective. This regional approach to the study of culture is not only rare in Sino-Western negotiation studies, but also uncommon in the literature of international business negotiations. Second, this research highlights the fallacious assumption of cultural homogeneity with nations. It calls for academic attention to balance inter-cultural and intra-cultural diversity in the studies of international business. Third, a step is taken towards exploring the regional values and behavioural differences in China. The findings of this research provide directions for future regional studies on other managerial issues.


School of Business and Economics



  • Business and Economics


  • Business


© Lianghui Lei

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

EThOS Persistent ID



  • en