The Business Negotiation Skills: 3 Words for “Negotiate” in Chinese

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.

Time to get down to business.
From Agbeat

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:

  • 商讨租约
    shāngtǎo zūyuè
    Negotiate a lease
  • 咱们有些事得商讨一下.
    Zánmen yǒuxiē shì děi shāngtǎo yīxià.
    We have a few matters to discuss.
  • 这个问题是没有商讨余地的.
    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.

Bussiness men shaking hand
From AllThingsNuclear Org

Time to get down to business. Let’s 谈判…

谈判 /Tánpàn

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:

  • 和平谈判
    hépíng tánpàn
    peace negotiations
  • 他们赢得了这场谈判.
    Tāmen yíngdé le zhè cháng tánpàn.
    They won these negotiations.
  • 占中谈判
    zhànzhōng tánpàn
    Occupy Central negotiations [in Hong Kong]
  • 占中谈判有望下周启动.
    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:

  • 我们正交涉加班费问题.
    Wǒmen zhèng jiāoshè jiābān fèi wèntí.
    We’re in dispute about overtime rates.
  • 我们正在交涉,还没有找到解决方案.
    Wǒmen zhèngzài jiāoshè, hái měiyǒu zhǎodào jǐejué fānàn.
    We are negotiating right now, still haven’t found a solution.
  • 交涉结果令人满意.
    jiāoshè jiēguǒ lìngrénmǎnyì.
    Negotiations were finally concluded satisfactorily.
  • 这是一个严重的问题。我们今天必须和王先生交涉找到解决方案.
    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.

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