In China, as with everywhere else in the world, relationships whether personal or business depends in part upon sincerity. Without it, trust in another person or business can be misplaced or even abused with serious consequences.

Problems often occur in cross cultural relations despite both parties being aware of the importance of sincerity. Friction and frustration often occur between parties for the simple reason is that each culture understanding of sincerity can differ in very fundamental ways.

The Chinese use the term, budan xin (buu- dahn sheen) to mean sincerity and will express their desire to have budan xin in their relations with foreign business contacts.

Yet, after all, who wouldn’t want that? Anyone who has done business in China (or in Asia) will tell you that rarely are these relationships smooth going, without any degree of friction or misunderstanding.

Now here’s the catch: In China, budan xin is understood as “sincerity plus understanding.” In other words, Chinese expect foreigners to also understand their circumstances or position and accept it.

This puts an entirely different spin on the idea of sincerity as we know it here. When dealing with Chinese especially, we need to be prepared to compromise on our expectations and behaviours if we want to succeed in markets such as China.


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