Ting’s Blog: Advice for SMEs Keen to Do Business in China

Ting Zhang, Founder and CEO of Crayfish.io, outlines  important things you need to know if you want to tap into the lucrative Chinese market.

What should SMEs do to be successful in China?

Protect intellectual property (IP). China has been strengthening its laws for better enforcement of IP rights, and it is dealing with issues in a fair and transparent way. If you complain to one of the Chinese authorities – the Industrial and Commerce Bureau for example – based on your evidence that someone has infringed your trademark, they can shut down the infringer’s business.

Be aware of cultural differences. If you are going to do business in China, you need more than just enthusiasm. You need to understand how things work in China and be prepared.

  • Make an effort to build your reputation within the government network.  Confucius led the foundation for the Chinese way of thinking about 2500 years ago, and consequently, Chinese people do listen to the government. In fact, there’s a survey that shows that the Chinese government enjoys very high level of trust by its citizens. When you do business in China, you need to respect this and foster a good relationship with the government.
  • Meet people face-to-face because making friends is also very important.
  • Don’t share confidential tech information because in China, people don’t really treat confidentiality agreements seriously.


Use WeChat instead of email to communicate. Understand that if you don’t get an answer, even after very frequent WeChat messages, that it just means “no”. Chinese people don’t want to make you lose face by saying “no” to you directly.

Translate important information into Chinese. Make sure to use the right characters (i.e. the Chinese simplified, rather than traditional characters). Have translations double-checked by industry experts if they are technical.

Work with a partner if possible. Do some proper research and find one that best represents you in your sector. Sometimes size doesn’t matter. It is often best to work with a smaller, friendlier company whose team can give you their full attention.

Build trust by visiting multiple times and talking to important people – your potential customers, government officials and other stakeholders, e.g. industrial or academic experts, to build your reputation in the relevant ecosystem.

Take your time. Remember China is a quite bureaucratic country and doing business there actually does take a lot of time. If you are looking to set up a company, you need to allow three months at least; sometimes it will take longer.

Think about currency issues. Be prepared to go through the process of approval at China’s State Administration for Foreign Exchange, and then go through the bank remittance process – this can take as long as 90 days.

Be flexible and open-minded. China is a dynamic place to do business and changes can occur quickly. One of the best ways is to work with a partner and align your interest with the country’s interest, so that you are there with your Chinese partners in the long term.

Ask for help! Crayfish.io offers the full range of services to help you overcome all these challenges – whether it is language, translation, cultural barriers, finding partners or talking to the Chinese government. Through the innovative Crayfish Accelerator Programme, we also have Chinese investors already committed to invest in start-ups in the UK. There’s also access to mentors, free webinars and workshops.