Category Archives: Business Strategy

According to the American Chamber of Commerce in the PRC, 2015 was a challenging year for foreign companies in terms of profit and growth, with member companies yet again citing regulatory changes and depressed economic conditions as key challenges. Human resources were a surprising area of concern for foreign companies, as the cost of wages and living standards continue to increase in China. Foreign companies, long considered as favourable working environments through which to gain ‘western business training’ are now finding it more difficult to retain valuable local staff.

More and more companies are reportedly scaling back their investments in China, and turning to the rest of South East Asia to outsource key areas such as manufacturing to some of China’s relatively cheaper neighbours. Some companies are even removing themselves from China altogether. 25% of AmCham China’s respondents suggested they were either planning to move or had already moved operations outside of the PRC. 50% of these were moving to Asia and 40% back to the US or Canada.

It could be argued that this perceived drop off in numbers of foreign companies investing in China could simply be an indication of the development of China as a sophisticated market in which to operate. Gone are the days when foreign companies could swoop in and make easy money through the much-venerated first mover advantage. Now, like any other market with it’s own challenges and unique circumstances, the Chinese marketplace is one in which foreign companies must thoroughly prepare themselves to do commercial battle. A company’s brand offering whether Foreign or Chinese must be adequately differentiated, a particular challenge facing foreign companies not already established in the Chinese market in an environment where the value proposition of foreign brands is under greater scrutiny than ever before.

That isn’t to say that opportunity in China has evaporated. The numbers are still compelling. China’s massive population of around 1.3 billion and expanding middle class are tantalizing reasons to invest. Higher wages for Chinese labour are translating into higher rates of discretionary spending, making it tougher to manufacture in the People’s Republic, but transforming the market into a better environment in which to sell. In 2014, China’s online retail market grew by 50% reaching the equivalent of half a trillion Australian dollars in value. E-commerce especially provides access to over 332 million tech savvy Chinese consumers attracted by low cost and convenience to purchase from Australian producers both large and small. $90 billion of Australia’s exports are forwarded to China.

But then what about that decelerating economic growth rate?

The shift in China’s economic growth rate from a breakneck 10% to a more manageable 6-7% has been trumpeted by many as the end of the era of foreign investment in China. But this analysis is deceptive. To put it in perspective, Australia’s economic average growth rate for 2015 fluctuated between 2-3%. The economic growth rate of the prevailing superpower the US was only 1-2%. (Check out the Australian Bureau of Statistics and US Department of Commerce for more information).

China’s slowing economic growth rate has been proclaimed as a sound reason for foreign enterprise to pack up shop and ship on out. ’China’s growth rate is at a 25 year low!’ ‘Foreign companies leave China!’ are the trending headlines, but in a similar vein to what Patrick Smith at The Fiscal Times asserts, “reality doesn’t mean early onset doom and gloom.”

Let’s face it; the rate of growth and change in China over the last decade has been phenomenal to say the least. Rapid, does not even begin to cover what has been accomplished in such a short period of time. Sure, there’s a lot that could be better, but there was always going to be difficulty in realizing such incredible social and economic change over the course of a handful of 5-year plans. As the International Monetary Fund claims in it’s economic health check survey, “China is moving to a new normal of slower yet safer and more sustainable growth.”

Let’s repeat. Slower, but more SUSTAINABLE, growth.

China still has considerable room to grow, and its future success will depend largely upon quality of regulation and reform policies as it’s command economy transitions and matures in coming years.

But what does this mean for foreign businesses operating or looking to expand into China?

The difference now for foreign firms that wish to remain profitable will be in how they commit to long term investment strategies, how flexible these strategies are, and how effectively individual companies can differentiate their respective brands. The opportunity is still very much there, for those that are brave enough to take advantage of it.

In recent news Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a $1 billion ‘innovations package’ set to spur Australia on from a 3 decades long mining boom into a future no longer reliant on resources and the limited shelf life of a two speed economy.

Following the global economic slowdown due in part to the 2008 financial crisis, this seems to be a concern of many major economies, attempting to shift away from traditional industry in the face of repressed commodities prices, and re-brand as innovation hotspots going into the future.

China’s Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province is experiencing similar change, with government officials shifting support from traditional industry to the burgeoning science and technology industries. Plans to more than double fiscal expenditure over the next several years, in order to incubate high-tech start-ups and spur innovation are on the agenda, as the city seeks to reposition itself as a science and technology hub in the region.

With GDP at 1.81 trillion RMB, third in China for the 27th consecutive year according to the China Daily, and economic growth rounding at the previous year at 8.4%, claims of increasing R&D expenditure to 3% of GDP during the 13th five year plan will significantly stimulate technology industries.

According to Nanfang Daily, Guangzhou officials are eyeing off biological medicine, computer science and intelligent manufacturing in order to fuel economic growth. As traditional industries’ power to drive economic growth weakens, government officials are opting to invest in innovation rather than reliance on existing infrastructure.

In contrast to the focused approach to investment by Guangzhou officials, the Australian innovations package hailed by the Australian Financial Review as a holistic approach to innovation, has taken into account such pervasive issues as cultural aversion to failure and lack of incentives for start-up investments. It offers attractive incentives for initial investors in the form of a 20% non-refundable tax offset and waiver on capital gains tax, as well as apportioning funds for the rekindling of interest in science and technology in schools.

Taking advantage of both nations shift in economic policy and available incentives could well be a smart business decision of many Australian and Chinese businesses.

With investment in both countries set up to become even easier over the medium term with the completion of the Chinese Australian Free Trade Agreement, savvy entrepreneurs and investors will be well positioned to collaborate on projects moving forward.

The Australian Government is also poised to invest $36m in a ‘Global Innovation Strategy’ as part of the proposed innovations package – allowing Australian entrepreneurs to establish themselves in global innovation hotspots including Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv, as well as several other key regions. If one of these proposed key regions was a city like Guangzhou, positioning itself to be a regional science and technology hub in south china, Australia-China project collaborations and investment could appear even more attractive in coming days.

As both nations attempt to answer the question of how to drive economic prosperity and manage a transitioning economy in the years ahead, with both South China and Australia competing to appear attractive to high-tech start-ups, perhaps the only way to ensure mutual prosperity is to foster better connections between both regions.

So the question is – where would you like to establish your tech start-up empire?

Author: Neishya Harrison

Chinese New Year. Spring Festival. The Golden Week. Whatever you want to call it, the upcoming February 8 holiday is the no. 1 cultural festival in China. Ahead of even Singles Day in terms of notoriety, Chinese New Year is responsible for what is possibly the largest annual mass migration on the planet. All over the country, over 100 million workers abandon their city jobs, returning to their hometowns to celebrate the New Year with their families.

Online retailers such as Taobao are slashing prices to encourage consumers to splurge when welcoming in the New Year. For many foreign companies, especially those in e-commerce, the annual holiday and virtual shutdown of commercial activity requires planning as many Chinese suppliers may cease or significantly diminish operations during the period.

This year of the monkey will also see a continuation of the trend that sees huge numbers of Chinese travellers heading abroad to celebrate the New Year.

While an expected 2.9 billion domestic trips are estimated to be made during the Spring Festival period, triggering a massive overload to the country’s transportation systems, more and more Chinese are opting to take their celebrations abroad. International, the popular online travel agency, anticipates that over 6 million outbound trips by Chinese tourists will be made, setting a new ‘Golden Week’ travel record.

Airlines such as Air Asia, Air China and Cathay Pacific have all added additional flights to their rosters to accommodate skyrocketing volumes of outward-bound travel over the period. a tourism information sharing website claim that online bookings per capita for international travel are up 30% this year as well.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that 722 200 overseas visitors came to Australia in February 2015, up 14.4% on the previous year. Of that number, 164 000 were Chinese. This year Chinese arrivals are expected to increase. Similarly between 70 000 and 75 000 Chinese are expected to visit New Zealand in February, a 35% increase on the same period last year. Akin to this information, the reputable English language newspaper published in the PRC, has claimed that Australia is always a popular destination for Chinese tourists.

Even despite the recent economic slowdown, this Chinese New Year period is expected to be a busy one. With average spending for Chinese tourists expected to exceed 10 000 RMB ($2200 AUD). Prominent industry insiders at China Tourism Academy have also claimed that the prospects for high-end tourism are bright as Chinese travellers continue to break records, making an average of 4 billion trips annually.

With Australia’s resource based exports on the decline, Tourism is fast becoming one of the country’s most important offerings to Chinese consumers.

Reported as being ‘the next mining boom’ by some, tourism has become Australia’s second largest export earner at $102 billion, and in New Zealand, our closest competitor, is predicted to surpass Dairy as the country’s most significant export. Tourism Australia expects aggregate spending from Chinese tourists to double to around $13 billion by 2020. Sydney also hosts one of the largest Chinese New Year celebrations outside of China – so there is great potential for the Australian tourism sector during the Golden Week.

But while the mass exodus of Chinese travellers overseas is a potential boon to our Tourism industry on the whole, it does not come without its challenges. To many local operators the greatest challenge comes in the form of the language barrier. Hiring staff with knowledge of Mandarin during the busy February period is common practice, and the pressure is now on for Australian businesses to upgrade their facilities and services in order to compete for lucrative Chinese tourist dollars.

In order for your business to take advantage of trends in the Chinese market it is important to consult an expert on brand strategy with particular focus on the Chinese market. For more information on the significance of Chinese New Year to your business, or to find out how your business can tap into the Chinese market, contact 3mandarins today and commission a China Opportunities Business Report.

From all of us at 3mandarins祝大家新年快乐!

Author: Neishya Harrison


In recent years, foreign companies in China are racing to secure sponsorship deals with leading celebrities. The role of brand ambassadors is becoming increasingly important for establishing the important brand pillars of trust and quality. Anything from vitamin supplements to luxury jewellery and restaurant chains are utilising the power of Chinese celebrities and their social media followings to boost their brand’s exposure and credibility. In a booming market, which is saturated with new brands and products, how can foreign brands capture their market share – the answer seems to be brand ambassadors.

These people are employed by a company to promote its products and are specifically chosen as they are seen to embody the brand, its values and image. Their role is to leverage their status and social media following in order to strengthen the company and influence customer purchasing.

Restaurant Chain Started by American Chef Utilises the Power of Chinese Tennis Champion, Li Na

Li na

Li Na, winner of two Grand Slam titles; the French Open in 2011 and the Australian Open in 2014, is China and Asia’s most successful tennis champion ever. She has entered into a long-term sponsorship deal with restaurant chain, Element Fresh. Element Fresh is one of China’s leading restaurant chains, it is best known for it’s western-inspired, simple meals; combining great taste, variety and nutrition. The restaurant chain supports major sports events like the Tennis Masters, the China Open and other sports from international to grassroots levels. With Li Na’s endorsements on the restaurants website and in-store, along with her involvement in developing a new seasonal menu, the chain that started in 2002 is gaining much attention nationally and expanding into new cities each year. The restaurant is now in 29 locations, and nine cities across China.

Popular Chinese Actress Fan Bingbing Helps International Brands Enter China

Another example is one of the most famous Chinese actresses, Fan Bingbing, who is best-known to international audiences for her role in X-Men: Days of Future Past. She was the only non-American to make the 2015 rankings compiled by Forbes magazine, which – for the first time ever – featured a truly global list of the biggest earning Hollywood actresses. In the Mainland Chinese version of Iron Man 3, Fan Bingbing plays a doctor who helps treat Tony Stark. The producers added 4 minutes of footage for Chinese audiences featuring Fan Bingbing, which western audiences will never see. This is one of the main reasons Iron Man 3 was such a box office success, earning almost USD$100 million in the first two weeks in China.

She may also currently be the most successful brand ambassador in China. Not only is she an ambassador for Louis Vuitton, she’s also a face of many more international big brands like L’Oreal, Moët & Chandon, Mercedes-Benz and Adidas. Due to her influence, many international brands with limited recognition in China have been able to see increased growth in the China market, like jewellery brand Chopard, where Fan has acted as the brand’s China ambassador.

Her personal Weibo account, an equivalent to Twitter, has over 40 million followers and her own studio, Fan Bingbing Studio, has over 2.5 million followers. In January 2014, the star was reported to have generated USD$74 million in ecommerce revenue.

Celebrity Endorsements Extend to Even Vitamin Supplements

It’s not just luxury international brand’s leveraging the power of celebrities. Australian vitamin supplement giant, Blackmores, has signed up Aussie Olympic medallist, Ian Thorpe to boost sales in the Asian markets. The strategy certainly worked for the Aussie brand with profits increasing by 83% in just one year. Its sales in China have gone from just $2 million in 2013/14 to $75 million.

So it would seem that no matter what brand you are thinking of taking to the Chinese market it’s best to draw on the strength of local or international celebrities. As we can see from the Element Fresh example above, it’s not just the huge international brands that are doing is. So who will be the ambassador for your brand in China?

If you’d like help finding a suitable brand ambassador for your brand contact Greg from 3mandarins at


Professional translator and China engagement strategist, Greg Mikkelsen, talks on the importance of speaking Chinese in today’s Asia-focused business environment.

Should you learn Chinese? The short answer is ABSOLUTELY you should. The real question is how much Chinese should you learn. Read on as I’ll discuss this below.

Why Learn Chinese?

Let me start by explaining why I believe EVERYONE going into business should master the basics. I’m not going to bore you with statistics about how the Australian tourism, education, property and mining industries have all experienced a huge boom because of China. I do however want to emphasise how Chinese language skills can help you understand Chinese culture, build rapport with Chinese people and ultimately be more successful in business.

Let’s work backwards and see why it’s so necessary. When negotiating an important deal, mutual trust and understanding are essential. The deal can look great on paper (especially if it’s been translated into both Chinese and English) however often there needs to be some personal trust or relationship between the parties to give them the confidence to proceed. This level of trust can be difficult to achieve even with other people who share a common language or cultural background. Imagine how much harder it is to form this kind of relationship with Chinese people who don’t speak English. I’m not saying that you need to speak fluent Mandarin to secure a deal – BUT IT IS ESSENTIAL TO BUILD TRUST.

Most people already know that a lack of cultural knowledge or understanding can lead to mistrust or even prejudice views of other people. This is true whether talking about differences in terms of race, nationality, age, gender or sexuality. If you want to be able to build rapport with Chinese people you MUST make an effort to understand their culture and way of life – and I’m not talking about traditional Chinese culture – so put down your history books. You need to develop an appreciation for modern Chinese culture. Of course, Chinese traditions and Confucianism can be very informative in this regard however a more relevant understanding will come from actually engaging with Chinese people and contemporary Chinese society. Which brings us to the importance of learning Chinese.

Chinese language skills are a gateway to understanding the essence of contemporary Chinese thinking and culture. Language and culture are tied up in one. As you learn the language you learn about the culture. Similarly if you try to just learn about ‘Chinese culture’ without the language, so much of it will not make sense and will just be completely out of context. You will find yourself trying to create new English words to explain concepts or things which are uniquely Chinese – it’s best to learn the words that the Chinese use to describe these concepts. Some examples are the concepts of ‘面子’ (face), ‘土豪’(new money) as well as various Chinese foods.


How Much Chinese Should I Learn?

Now that you understand the importance of learning Chinese, the real question is – How Much Chinese Should You Learn?

Chinese is a difficult language to learn for Westerners and it takes many hours and much dedication to reach a high level of proficiency. If you are fortunate enough to start from a young age or can take several months off to do in-country study you may be able to reach fluency. However for most people this will never be a reality. However, unless you want to be a translator or use Chinese in a professional working environment it’s not necessary to attain this level of proficiency.

A command of basic spoken Chinese is all that is required to build rapport and strong relationships with Chinese people. Chinese people are very proud of their language and culture and truly appreciate any person who goes to the effort to learn and use Chinese. A simple self-introduction in Chinese or being able to order from a Chinese menu will impress your Chinese business partners and also act as a great conversation starter. You’ll also find that if you know the basics – Chinese people will be all too keen to help you practice and learn more.


The Best Way to Learn

Everyone learns differently, so you really need to find out what suits your learning style. Here’s a few suggestions for how to improve your Chinese:

  • Listen to Chinese language and culture podcasts
  • Attend a night class at TAFE or University
  • Get one-on-one lessons with a Chinese tutor
  • Take a trip to China
  • Watch Chinese movies, TV shows or online videos
  • Practise with Chinese friends

Remember that learning Chinese requires perseverance and a positive attitude. It does require a relatively large investment in the early stages but once you master the basics you’ll have a solid foundation to build upon.  


Good luck or jiayou (which means ‘add oil’).

3mandarins attended the China Export Forum recently held in Sydney. The forum is designed to help Australian businesses and industry better prepare for exporting products and services into the Chinese market.

If you weren’t able to make it, we’ve summarized the 6 most important points from the forum as we see it.

  1. Export culture – We must engrain the export culture into the way that we do business in Australia. The market in Australia is not large enough to sustain long-term growth and small businesses will find it difficult to survive without having an export strategy. The focus is reflected in the recent NSW government decision to include Export in the Premier and Cabinet portfolio***
  1. E-commerce – E-commerce is revolutionizing the way that Chinese consumers purchase products. One of the best ways for Australian brands to get their products in front of Chinese shoppers is to get them on online stores such as Tmall which is similar to Amazon. However, Tmall which is owned by Alibaba, doesn’t sell products to customers they just provide a platform for merchants to advertise and sell their products to shoppers. Australia’s largest freight service provider Australia Post has seen the opportunity in e-commerce and opened an online store on Tmall, acting as a kind of online department store for Aussie products being sold into the Chinese market. The great advantage of this kind of sales platform is that you leverage of the high traffic volume and credibility of being positioned along side other ‘brand Australia’ products.
  1. ChaFTA – The China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChaFTA) is a tremendous boost forward for the Australian export industry. Australia has done well to secure a ‘living, breathing, negotiating’ agreement, with Australia having ‘most favoured nation status’. This means if China reaches new agreements with other countries Australia automatically gets the same concessions.
  1. “Without a brand your just a commodity” – a popular theme which continued to be discussed during the forum was the importance of brand development. One successful Australian exporter, Nature’s Organics, presented a case study at the forum and interestingly much of their study focused on connecting their brand with Chinese audiences. In their market entry strategy, the very first step was to create Chinese brand names and secure trade mark registrations. They teamed up with a local Chinese company to assist them in branding and distributing their products across China.
  1. Pilot sites – Start in one area, use the local market as a testing ground, from there you can expand into other areas of China. It’s not necessary to try and get your products into several supermarkets from day one. Starting out in just one supermarket in one city can have its advantages as you can learn from the experience and gather information about customer tastes and marketing strategies. A good example is how Nature’s Organics started out in just one supermarket in Qingdao.  From there you can develop you marketing strategy and expand into other stores and cities. Do be worried that just targeting one city won’t provide a bit enough market. You have to remember that China has over 40 cities with a population over 1 million.

6. Get over there – The final lesson we want to share is to just get yourself over there. If you haven’t been to China (and even if you have) make sure that you take a trip to China to feel and experience the country for yourself. You will never truly appreciate the opportunity until you go to China and see it for yourself. Going as a tourist won’t really expose you to all the business opportunity. It’s best to join a delegation of other Australian businesses that are visiting and participating in trade shows and forums in China. This way you can network and start to build relationships (or ‘guanxi’ as the Chinese say) with other businesses in the industry. The China journey can be a difficult one so it’s best to try and make as many friends as you can along the way.

Australia’s venture capital industry is in for a boost following the changes to the $5 million dollar SIV

This blog will first outline the changes to the SIV and the new requirements for proper compliance and second, it will consider the implications of these changes on the Australian venture capital industry.  



In late 2014 the Australian government announced various changes that would shift the $5million dollar investment away from government bonds and residential property towards more high risk equities. Starting July 1 2015 these changes to the SIV came into operation.

Investment through the SIV programme was largely going into passive investments like government bonds and into residential real estate schemes – these were areas that already attracted large capital flows. Direct investment in real estate has never been a complying investment for  the SIV and this will not change under the new arrangements. However, indirect investment in residential real estate through managed funds will now also be limited. Importantly, for many prospective SIV holders, you can still independently invest in residential real estate so long as it complies with foreign investment rules, but this does  not count as a complying investment to qualify for a visa.

As of July 1, the $5 million dollar sum must comply with the new investment framework which consists of three categories:

  1. venture capital and growth private equity funds (VCPE)
  2. funds investing in emerging companies
  3. balancing investments

The framework now requires a minimum $500,000 investment into category “a”, a minimum $1,500,000 investment into category “b”, and a $3,000,000 investment into category “c”. It is possible to increase either an investment in the “a” or “b”  categories and “c” will correspondingly reflect the remainder.

Interestingly, $1 million was initially drafted as a the threshold for investment into category “a”. However this has since been revised down to $500,000 likely due to an industry reaction which may have considered it too high or too large an imposition to place on investors without affording them adequate notice. We have a strong suspicion that the investment required for this category will increase following future revisions of the SIV and as investors become accustomed to the new framework.



Naturally these changes will have a significant impact on the venture capital industry and companies who are seeking venture capital investment. We will see a significant redirection of capital flows from the two assets that have previously dominated the program (government bonds and residential real estate schemes) into higher risk and growth oriented investments. Companies that fit within the regulatory framework of category “a” will now be considered for investments that would have normally gone elsewhere.

According to Moelis Australia Visa Fund’s chief executive Andrew Martin, “there has been negative self-interest reactions to the changes, but we support the objectives of the government to get capital into the economy and attract talent”. The $500,000 requirement for VCPE is “sensible” and even though it might impact some prospective SIV applicants in the short term there will be those who will still apply because they trust the “stable regulatory environment of Australia.”

Finally, as 91% of the SIV applications have come from mainland Chinese residents and with no sign of this trend changing it is important for companies seeking VC types of investment to position themselves in a way that will attract such Chinese investment.

These changes provide a unique opportunity for small innovative companies to take advantage of growing Chinese interest in the stability of Australia’s economy and the appeal of Australian residency.

For more information about how your company can take advantage of this change in government policy get in touch with 3mandarins at

Tips for all current or aspiring entrepreneurs

From the humble beginnings as an English teacher in Hangzhou, Jack Ma last year became the Richest Man in China. Ma always had that entrepreneurial spirit and drive, one which led him to establish Alibaba 15 years ago. It was that same entrepreneur within which drove him to grow the company and create world history by having the biggest IPO of all time.  With a market cap of $221 billion, the online retailer is nearly as valuable as Wal-mart and bigger than Amazon and eBay combined.

Every aspiring entrepreneur and businessman can learn from how a Chinese English teacher turned a vision, a group of friends and $60,000 into the world’s most valuable Internet commerce company.

Surround yourself with people you can learn from

Recognising the importance of the international language of business, as a young man, Ma would ride his bike to a nearby hotel and guide foreigners around the city just to learn and practice English. Ma knew that he had to learn English so he found ways to surround himself with people from whom he could learn. This is a great tip for any budding entrepreneur – make sure that you always surround yourself with people who are more experienced than yourself so that you can learn from them; ‘aim to always be the dumbest person in the room’.

Look for opportunities and have a vision

Young Ma was a pretty switched on guy and realised the enormous potential of the Internet very early on. He saw the opportunity it presented to bridge businesses right across China’s huge population. So he and his wife brought 17 friends together and pooled $60,000 to start the company. That formed the basis for the company’s dynamic partnership structure and unique culture designed to drive collaboration, diminish bureaucracy and promote accountability for long-term growth.

The bigger the risk the bigger the pay off!

Even if crowdfunding was around in the early days of the Internet it’s very unlikely Ma would have taken that route. He knew if he was to make it big, he’d have to find big investors. That’s why he and his friends went all in, raising a $5 million angel round, $20 million from Softbank in 2000, $1 billion from Yahoo five years later, and $1.6 billion from Silver Lake Partners and DST Global in 2011. That’s how you make it big!

Stand on the shoulders of giants…. and innovate, innovate, innovate!

Just like Amazon and eBay, Alibaba is an Internet commerce company but rather than just copying these successful business models, Ma took the idea and made it better! Alibaba does not actually hold inventory or sell goods. It’s simply a middleman that collects annual fees and commissions from larger merchants and advertising fees from smaller ones. The result is one of the most scalable and profitable business models on Earth.

Always look for new opportunities

Ma recently laid out his vision for the future of the company. Right now mainly features Chinese exporters selling to people in other parts of the world, but now Ma is saying that China needs more American Products. “We have a hungry 100 million people coming to buy everyday,” he said. Ma is positioning Alibaba as an attractive option for small businesses in America to tap into the giant e-commerce market in China. He pointed out that big companies established in the US already have a presence in China, but it’s not as easy for smaller companies to flourish in China. Alibaba could now become an avenue for western companies to sell goods back into the hungry Chinese consumer market.

So if you want to be a successful entrepreneur in China – there’s plenty you can learn from Jack Ma!

A comprehensive understanding of the Chinese Calendar will put your business in an ideal position to capitalise on changing Chinese consumer behaviour.


Unsurprising to many, the Chinese calendar is very different to the Western one. However, what is not commonly known is the effect that this has on Chinese yearly consumer behaviour. This misunderstanding of key events means many businesses are missing out on vast engagement opportunity and significantly hampering their market potential. For those new to the China market it can be quite disorienting to discover their marketing strategy can be virtually flipped on its head when first engaging Chinese consumers. But with sound judgement, what is initially a stumbling block can be turned to your advantage.


There are a number of Chinese holidays that are of particular importance to businesses in the e-commerce and tourism sectors. The most obvious example is Golden Week, a semi-annual 7 day national holiday held over Chinese New Year (January or February) and National Day (October). Three days of paid holiday are given, and the surrounding weekends are rearranged so that workers in Chinese companies always have seven continuous days of holiday. This results in the highest number of Chinese people travelling internationally at any time of the year. And for a country that already boasts the largest outbound tourism market, such an opportunity represents immense potential for the tourism sector.


Often Western businesses engaging with Chinese consumers expect the Christmas and Chinese New Year sales to be the main driver from the market, however, the real behemoth of Chinese consumption, ‘Singles Day’ consistently outperforms all other holidays in terms of sales. In fact, Singles day (also known as ‘11/11’) 2014 became the largest online shopping day in the world, generating a US$5.8 billion sales record in Alibaba’s sites Tmall and Taobao in 2014. Despite this, ‘Singles Day’ goes relatively unnoticed, attracting little in the way of targeted marketing campaigns by Western companies. We would attribute this to a significant lack of cultural understanding on the part of many Western companies who erroneously expect worldwide consumer trends to be replicated within China.


Interestingly, as the younger generation begins to participate more actively in the Chinese market, the importance of Western holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Christmas have gained significant prominence. This is an inevitable consequence of the increasing infusion of Chinese and Western cultures. Nonetheless, Chinese holidays maintain their status and with the increasing size of the middle class this will only become more apparent.


We know it can take some time to become accustomed to the Chinese Calendar and to develop a communication style and voice that fits both the Chinese cultural context and your brand identity. However, a clear understanding of the Chinese calendar is a simple method of deriving vital insight into the consumer’s mindset as well as allowing marketers to optimise promotional activities and event planning. A successful implementation of this strategy will undoubtedly serve to enhance your business’s market potential.

For more information about how your business can take advantage of the Chinese consumer Calendar and to tap into Chinese online retail and tourism markets get in touch with 3mandarins at

As elusive as it may seem now, the following three quick steps will go a long way in your effort to effectively engage with the Chinese Market!

  1. Using A Professional Translator

In order to present your company as approachable and effectively as possible you would be remiss by failing to use a professional translator. Not only does it ensure accuracy and consistency in your documents but it also conveys a strong sense of professionalism to your prospective business partners.

If you are visiting a company or Government department in China it is very common to be given beautifully presented bilingual documents, with details of the company, city or industry you are visiting, including colours, photos and images in an expensively produced brochure. In comparison, our own documentation is often austere and, worst of all, in English only.Translating documents professionally is not as simple as asking a bilingual member of staff or friend to do it for you. This may get the job done quickly,  and at little cost, but its very likely to result in miscommunication or convey a message that may not have been intended.

Having your company profile, business cards and even your own name professionally translated into Chinese will remarkably improve the quality of discussion and level of understanding in a meeting with Chinese investors, entrepreneurs and business leaders. It is a simple but sure way to show that you are serious about your business potential and will make your company stand out as a leading and professional business.

  1. Understanding And Adopting Chinese Business Etiquette

When developing trusted business relationships in China, the importance of culture and etiquette should never be underestimated. If you have met with a Chinese delegation then it is very likely you have received a Chinese gift. In Chinese business culture giving gifts are considered gestures of thanks and a sign of a willingness and dedication to forging a long-term relationship. Consider taking a gift when you meet prospective clients or business partners – ideally something that has a strong meaning to you, this could be from your local town, country, or community.

You should also embrace and even seek out opportunities to show your respect to your hosts, business partners and colleagues by observing Chinese business customs and etiquette as well as Chinese culture more generally. This will not only show an understanding and appreciation of their culture, but it will form a strong foundation on which a successful business relationship can easily grow.

  1. Engaging With Chinese Social Media

Social media is the key to engaging with the Chinese community whether it is to consumers or businesses. As Western social media is banned in China, engagement must take place on the Chinese equivalents, such as Weibo (Twitter) and WeChat (Whatsapp). Weibo is particularly influential and effective when engaging Chinese consumers in online shopping.

Data shows 82% of Weibo users have purchased a product online and up to four fifths of them searched the platform for a product or service to buy in the third quarter of 2014. With over 600m registered users, Weibo is quickly proving itself to be one of the most cost effective marketing tools for Western online retailers attempting to attract Chinese consumers.

By following these three simple steps you will see a remarkable improvement to the effectiveness of your engagement with China. If you have any questions or uncertainties in taking these steps get in touch with 3mandarins and we’ll be able to help!