David Cameron, the UK’s Prime Minister, is currently on a visit to China. He’s there trying to increase trade with what is now one of the world’s largest economies. The Chinese market has been growing exponentially over the last few years and has continued to even during the recent worldwide downturn.

Importing and exporting with the Chinese is now vital to the whole world, as they are not only a growing producer and manufacturer, but now also have a growing affluent population which has had its eyes opened to western commercialism for the first time. This means that the tide has now turned from only exports coming from the Chinese to a growing hunger for western brands, services, goods and values.

Doing business in China

But how do you get your business in on the ground floor of what to most western business is an alien country? Well, the old colonial way was to bulldoze your way in and treat it as just another ‘English speaking’ market.  And to an extent it still is, with areas like Hong Kong and Singapore having a large population who can speak and are happy to do business in English. But China is a massive place with some cities having a larger population than some countries, so trying to do business in these places without communicating in Chinese is pretty fruitless.

In China’s history are many great dynasties and autonomous areas, which while now under full Chinese control have retained many of their own customs and language. This means that getting the right dialect is crucial to doing business, so you need to be sure if the area you are working in speaks Mandarin or Cantonese or any of the other dialects.

The Chinese written language is a much more straightforward affair. There are two written versions of Chinese:

Traditional Chinese is being phased out by the Chinese government as it has thousands of characters and takes a lot of effort to learn and be able to use. Simplified Chinese is slowly being implemented as the accepted form of written language throughout China. There are, however, still pockets which prefer to continue to use the traditional form of writing. These are mainly the provinces which are furthest from the Communist centre of the country, e.g. Singapore and Hong Kong.

The first step to doing business anywhere is communication, as without that your business won’t even get a sniff of an order. Breaking into China can seem even more daunting from this point of view, as the spoken and written language can be so complex and varied depending on where you want to sell your company’s services.

So what’s the best way to make a first move in China?

Well, if you’re making the jump then the best thing you can do is to take the language seriously and the best way to do that is to use a professional translation or interpreting company who can help you through all the pitfalls of ensuring your language is perfect for the people you need to speak to. We at Global Lingo only use in-country Chinese translators, who live and breathe the language, and this ensures the highest quality as well as ensuring that the tone of voice is correct too.

We can choose the perfect people to suit your services too. If you have a very technical product then we’ll ensure we use a translator who has the correct technical understanding. If you have a marketing piece then we’ll employ a translator with marketing and copywriting skills.

Once you’ve got your first meeting and you’re getting ready for a visit, having an interpreter with you is again vital not just for the language but so that you can ensure you follow the local customs too. You don’t want to ruin your deal by offending your hosts inadvertently.

Is David Cameron right?

Yes he is. China represents a great opportunity, now more than ever. In fact, China has been a great opportunity for a number of years and lots of huge companies have been there for some time. To ensure you don’t miss out on the vast opportunities, now is a great time to make a move; just make sure you have professional translation and interpreting help first.