A socially oriented non-financial development institution and a major organizer of international conventions, congress, exhibitions, business, social and sporting, public, and cultural events.

The Roscongress Foundation is a socially oriented non-financial development institution and a major organizer of international conventions; exhibitions; and business, public, sporting, and cultural events. It was established in pursuance of a decision by the President of the Russian Federation.

The Foundation was established in 2007 with the aim of facilitating the development of Russia’s economic potential, promoting its national interests, and strengthening the country’s image. One of the roles of the Foundation is to comprehensively evaluate, analyse, and cover issues on the Russian and global economic agendas. It also offers administrative services, provides promotional support for business projects and attracting investment, and helps foster social entrepreneurship and charitable initiatives.

Each year, the Foundation’s events draw participants from 208 countries and territories, with more than 15,000 media representatives working on-site at Roscongress’ various venues. The Foundation benefits from analytical and professional expertise provided by 5000 people working in Russia and abroad. In addition, it works in close cooperation with 160 economic partners; industrialists’ and entrepreneurs’ unions; and financial, trade, and business associations from 75 countries worldwide.

The Roscongress Foundation has Telegram channels in Russian (t.me/Roscongress), English (t.me/RoscongressDirect), and Spanish (t.me/RoscongressEsp). Official website and Information and Analytical System of the Roscongress Foundation: roscongress.org.

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29 August 2019

Handdshakes are not customary here

Is it relevant to talk about differences between business etiquette in the East and West in our modern world?

Of course. In the Western world, qualities such as proactiveness, entrepreneurship, and uniqueness are valued, but they are not promoted in the Eastern cultures. The ideal Japanese person is someone who respects established rules and doesn’t show his or her individuality. The differences between East and West are no less significant than the differences between Eastern countries themselves. Chinese business etiquette differs from Japanese as much as French etiquette. For example, Japanese people are very sensitive to even the slightest show of disagreement between business partners during
negotiations and react to that negatively. In China, it’s different: if you don’t raise your voice, you won’t secure special terms and conditions.

Can you tell us about the peculiarities of Chinese etiquette in more detail?

Avoid potentially putting a Chinese person in an awkward situation in front of others. This rule also applies in Japan, so avoid criticism and expressing disagreement, even when it concerns obvious errors. Save everything that’s bothering you for a face-to-face, and if your partner is a high-ranking person, it would be good to employ a mediator who can unpick the subtleties of these missions. Hierarchy in Chinese society is very important, so I don’t advise speaking to a subordinate if their senior is present. In China, guests are invited to speak first so that they can find out the position of their partner (vice versa in Europe) so that they can do away with general chit chat. It’s not worth trying to get any concrete commitments from them in the first round of negotiations. They only make concessions at the very end of negotiations, and even then, any details will have to be confirmed by the director of the company. Having said that, it’s not improbable that the next day, you might find yourself discussing the same options that you arrived at the previous day. Chinese people are keen on responding quickly to written requests and questions. It’s preferable to do it as quickly as possible, and if that’s not possible, then they will write to find out when an answer may be expected. Another important thing to mention is when European partners take part in ceremonial events in China...

In the Western world, qualities such as proactiveness, entrepreneurship, and uniqueness are valued, but they are not promoted in the Eastern cultures. The ideal Japanese person is someone who respects established rules and doesn’t show his or her individuality.

And there’s alcohol?

Obviously! The desire to forge relationships over a glass of wine or shot of vodka only works against you if your partners are from the Far East. There have been cases where failing to agree on the wine list while concluding a contract has resulted in negotiations falling apart. Chinese people aren’t Muslim, so their attitude toward alcohol is very similar to that of Russians. But you need to drink skilfully with Chinese people: local vodka isn’t the lightest of drinks.

Do they only drink vodka?

At dinner parties and receptions, you are offered rice wine (Shaoxing), which you are given to drink after a toast, during which you should hold the glass in your right hand and support it with the left. A dinner is an important part of negotiations. More often than not, business matters are decided in restaurants rather than back at the office. In Japan, the situation is a bit more complicated: eye watering budgets are spent on corporate outings to restaurants, and the Japanese expect the same sort of dedication from their Russian partners. As for gifts, if it’s a corporate gift, you must give it once a contract has been concluded and not to a specific person but the firm in general. Don’t give a watch as a gift: in Chinese, the word sounds similar to the word for ‘funeral’. It’s worth noting that as China has a corruption problem, gifts should be purely symbolic, particularly when they are given to bureaucrats.

What kind of character traits, in your opinion, does a Western person have to possess in order to run a successful business in China?

Patience. You can’t establish any kind of business in China quickly. Chinese people are ultimately geared toward long-term relationships, so it’s not worth rushing them. You mustn’t shout or cause a scene if, for example, the good that you ordered hasn’t arrived. Chinese people are highly perceptive and know how to manipulate or deceive people. In other words, when maintaining business partnerships in China, be ready for anything, don’t rush concluding a contract, and most of all, get yourself an expert guide who understands the local culture.

In Japan, the proper way to present one’s business card is with both hands

Such kind of expert would be useful in other countries too?

Definitely. Particularly in Japan and Arab countries, where you have to study the subtleties of communicating for years. The devil is in the details. For example, Japanese people, as well as Chinese people, exchange business cards when they meet, but whereas in China it’s enough to simply have business cards on you, in Japan, which pocket you take them out of is important (keeping business cards in your pocket without a business card holder and, even worse, in the back pocket of your trousers, is the height of impoliteness), how you reach to take one (always use two hands), the order of the exchange (strictly in order of seniority), etc. Here they also value the business dress code but, in contrast to the Chinese, they don’t take off their jackets nor loosen their ties. Hand-shaking is not polite there, nor is bowing politely (men’s bows are different to women’s bows and people of different statuses also bow in different ways). You should call Japanese (and Chinese) people by their surname, adding ‘san’ (a suffix which acts as a display of respect to the person in question). They are also extremely scrupulous towards punctuality shown by their partner: it’s polite to arrive exactly five minutes before the start of a meeting, no earlier or later. If you start gesticulating with your hands during negotiations with Chinese people, they will immediately think that you are uncivilised, as they see this behaviour as a manifestation of stress. Bargaining with the Chinese is appropriate and even allowed, but not with Japanese, as they are likely to accept the seller’s price. If you’ve heard anything along the lines of «it’s a bit problematic at the moment», «I need to think about that», then you can forget about the project: they’ve dropped you. Negotiating with the Japanese is always long-winded because they will analyse the tiniest details, even in one round of negotiations or over several meeting, to iron out any differences of opinion within their own group.

And how soon will people be willing to do business with the Japanese?

You know, if you’ve worked your way up, the Japanese will be the most devoted partners in the years to come. Even if you start experiencing difficulties, it’s the Japanese who will give you a hand and support you to the end, even if it’s not providing them with any benefit. The process of negotiating with Koreans is very different to the Japanese tradition: there are no cues or elusive answers. And if you start negotiating with Indians, I strongly advise that you study the caste system, as well as the dress code, business cards and respect the traditions, that are still very much engrained in the culture: the etiquette requirements will be similar to those in Japan and South Korea. In Hong Kong, I would advise that women don’t dress in white or royal blue, reduce tactile contact to zero, avoid winking and don’t beckon with their finger as it’s impolite. In Indonesia, you should never offer or take anything with your left hand, as in other Muslim countries. In Taiwan, you should never touch anyone’s head. However, in Arabic countries of the East, there are just as many subtleties.

Is there anything that shocks foreigners about Russian norms of behaviour?

Yes, there are things that surprise Eastern and Western business people alike. For example, there’s a poor understanding of the hierarchy, dress code and punctuality, not to mention the cues and lack of direct answers, which is not completely removed from what Russians call ‘saving face’. There’s also our traditional hospitality, which only the Chinese can truly match, and the specific taste of traditional Russian dishes: dressed herring salad (literally: herring under a fur coat), Olivier salad, borscht, vinaigrette, okroshka, etc.
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