We are pleased to bring you a 6-part mini-series focusing on the art of negotiating in China. Whether you’re in the PRC for business or just keen to sharpen your general interactions in Chinese, we hope the language and ideas we cover are helpful!
To kick off, Part 1 covers some key vocabulary on this subject. We’ve selected three Chinese words that translate to “negotiate” / “negotiations”, each with slightly different usages: 商讨, 谈判 and 交涉.
商讨 / shāngtǎo
商讨 describes the process of discussions and negotiations. It refers to amicable, cooperative dealings, rather than anything too adversarial. You might also use it to describe opening discussions, which may lead to formal/final negotiations later.
商 (shāng) means here “to consult”
讨 (tǎo) means “to ask for or demand” or “to discuss”
Usage examples for 商讨:
Negotiate a lease
Zánmen yǒuxiē shì děi shāngtǎo yīxià.
We have a few matters to discuss.
Zhège wèntí shì méiyǒu shāngtǎo yúdì de.
This is a question with no leeway for negotiation.
Note: 协商 is similar to 商讨, and used in the same way.
Time to get down to business. Let’s 谈判…
谈判 refers to formal and official negotiations, such as the negotiation and signing of a final contract. The parties involved may be more aggressive during this sort of negotiation, pressing the other(s) to concede. Imagine serious poker faces here, folks…
Usage examples for 谈判:
Tāmen yíngdé le zhè cháng tánpàn.
They won these negotiations.
Occupy Central negotiations [in Hong Kong]
Zhànzhōng tánpàn yǒuwàng xiàzhōu qǐdòng.
The Occupy Central negotiations should hopefully start next week.
交涉 / jiāoshè
交涉 is used when there is a problem. For example, if ordered goods are lost, who should pay for it, the buyer or the seller? They have to 交涉 to find a solution. In addition, 交涉 is a formal word used in the political context for disputes/negotiations with foreign countries..
Usage examples for 交涉:
Wǒmen zhèng jiāoshè jiābān fèi wèntí.
We’re in dispute about overtime rates.
Wǒmen zhèngzài jiāoshè, hái měiyǒu zhǎodào jǐejué fānàn.
We are negotiating right now, still haven’t found a solution.
jiāoshè jiēguǒ lìngrénmǎnyì.
Negotiations were finally concluded satisfactorily.
Zhè shì yī gè yánzhòng de wèntí. Wǒmen jīntiān bìxū hé Wáng xiānsheng jiāoshè zhàodào jiějué fāngàn.
This is a serious problem. We must meet with Mr. Wang today to discuss and find a solution.
Note the range of vocabulary in Chinese used to describe different kinds of negotiation. We’ll explore these approaches in the coming posts…
Look out for Part 2 of this mini series, in which we interview Paul Ark to bring you insights and advice from an experienced professional in the field.
Paul is based in Shanghai and Bangkok. He earned his MBA at Kellogg (Northwestern University), and then gained 8 years’ experience as an investment banker, negotiating deals at Deutsche Bank and Citibank in Asia. Paul subsequently moved into retail, bringing upscale Thai department stores to China and then opening Apple’s retail flagship stores in China and across Asia. Most recently Paul has been working in a consulting role, bringing Microsoft retail locations to the PRC.