Building ‘guanxi’ for your business

A business man and business lady standing next to each other presenting wine and chocolates in front of the Alpha Group desk

Photo: Alpha Group General Manager Maggie Chen and BNZ Commercial Partner Franky Wang exchange mooncakes.

Jamie Rihia, BNZ’s Head of Growth Segments, explains the importance of the Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinese culture and how kiwi businesses can start to build valuable relationships in the Chinese market.

This year, the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (or Mooncake Festival) takes place on October 4th, marking the time of year when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. It is the second most important festival to Chinese people after Chinese New Year, and is traditionally a time for honouring deities, ancestors and uniting families.

Although the holiday is not recognised as an official public holiday in New Zealand, thanks to the large Chinese population, the cultural tradition of expressing good wishes and greetings to family, friends and neighbours is alive and well.

Mooncakes are special cakes that have become the most popular food of the Mid-Autumn festival. These round pastries are named after the moon goddess, Chang’e.  In Chinese culture roundness symbolises completeness and togetherness.

The mooncake is not just food. It’s a cultural tradition deep in Chinese people’s hearts, symbolising a spiritual feeling and expressing love and best wishes. Within BNZ, every year we observe this traditional gift giving time towards both staff and clients.

With China being New Zealand’s second largest trading partner, and a significant portion of our migrant population being Chinese, the festival is a time when kiwi businesses can acknowledge the important contribution that Chinese staff and clients make to their organisation.

Companies doing business with Chinese people anywhere, or building “guanxi” (personal relationships), would do well to acknowledge the Mooncake Festival with the sending of good wishes, or mooncakes. Not only will it show their appreciation of Chinese culture – but it could mean the difference between failure and success in a business deal. It is also an opportunity to tap into the hearts and minds of the discerning Chinese consumer or client.

Guanxi form a very important part of doing business in China. Your long-term presence is vital, and trust is not automatic. Guanxi isn’t a concept that can be adopted overnight, and developing your cultural know-how will help you appreciate the way things are done.

Kiwi business owners that want to do business in or with China should take the time to develop relationships and appreciate what the other party is looking for. A little bit of trust and respect can go a long way. Mooncake gifting is a great way to start.

At BNZ, we help businesses in their journey of discovery into the China market, whether it’s insights and connections or helping to demystify the market for them. Every year we take companies up to China to with a programme to help them understand the opportunities and generate business.

This year we have teamed up with ATEED and Auckland Council to build a trip around the Tripartite economic summit in Guangzhou, taking place in November. The BNZ mission will extend to Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Shanghai.

This particular trip is unique, as it includes attending the Tripartite Economic Summit in Guangzhou with a trade delegation that is being led by the Mayor of Auckland. A politically led trade mission to China can open up doors that you normally wouldn’t have.