In order to preserve face, the Chinese avoid making negative remarks and comments in public. If you want to keep your Chinese staff and be successful in your negotiations, always respect this number One rule.

I invite you to take this quiz. I hope it will be helpful for your next meeting in China.

1. In your opinion :

a. the Chinese never criticize in public.
b. the Chinese always criticize in public.

If the Chinese rarely criticize in public, it does not necessarily mean that they never do so. For example, they could make friendly direct criticisms about your latest hair style or make a public criticism in order to make the person they are taling with loose face as a last resort.

2. Which of these two statements strikes you as correct?

a. The French hate being criticized in public.
The Chinese hate being criticized in public.

Answer :
Neither the Chinese nor the French (nor any other nationality) likes to be criticized in public.

A Chinese employee working in a French company makes the following comment:
“Many people say that the Chinese react badly to criticism. This may be true, but I think they take it better than the French. At least the Chinese tend to not talk back, especially when the criticism comes from their managers. The French don’t appreciate being criticized but they certainly love give it!”

3. In China, you can criticize another person:

a. if it’s your spouse.
if you are a teacher.
if you are a police officer.
d. if the other person is a police officer.

All the answers are correct with a few nuances:
a. You can criticize your spouse, but only in private.
b. A Chinese saying goes: “Raising a child without educating him is the father’s fault, while educating a child without being strict is attributed to the schoolmaster’s laziness.” In Chinese schools, it is common practice for teachers to criticize pupils. Just like a father, the teacher fulfils an important educational role.
c.and d. Although the Chinese know it is in their best interest to respect police officiers, it is always amazing to foreigners to see how some of them behave towards the police. In fact, it is not unusual for a driver who has been pulled over for speeding to start arguing in order to defend his position and negotiate the fine. Usually a crowd gathers and people start giving their personal opinions: “You’re totally right, the policeman has got it all wrong.” “No, you’re wrong, the policeman is right.” However, if you have the impression that some Chinese people yell at police officers, it is simply because they try to speak a little louder than their counterparts (as a number of Chinese interviewees pointed out).

4. In China getting angry equates to:

a. being bad mannered.
b. demonstrating your power and earning respect.
showing that you cannot control yourself, which is a weakness.

a. and c.
When you get angry, not only do you risk coming across as ill-mannered, but also as someone who is weak.
A Chinese saying goes: “He who does not know how to anger is a fool, he who refuses to anger is a wise man.” In other words, you have to know how to do it, but not do it. In business, a true manager therefore demonstrates his capacity to get angry while showing a tremendous amount of self-control.

5. If a Chinese person criticizes you:

a. it is for your own good.
he just wants to upset you.
it would not happen since you are the boss.

Confucius said: “For those you love you should not spare hard labor. For those you respect you should not spare hard words.”

When a Chinese person criticizes you it is often for your own good. (Unless they criticize you severely in public, which means they really want you to lose face). In the end, the Chinese never criticize you if you are the boss—at least not in public.

You will find a similar test at the end of each chapter of my book “Saving Face in China”.