Keeping Face in China: a guide



The concept of Face (or “Mianzi”) is often difficult for a westerner to grasp. It is a purely Chinese concept even if we find similar concepts such as pride, honor, or reputation.

In China, Face is a complicated system of shame and stature measurement. Saving face is the priority for the Chinese while losing face is a cause of great anguish. In business, the Chinese will respect a Business partner who has a face.




What will provide you with Face?

A decent car


car china

Why do all great leaders, CEOs, and Chinese businessmen have their own private luxury car and preferably fairly recent?

Because the car is a sign of wealth and can get an idea about the financial health of the company.

If a Chinese CEO arrives inside a Santana people will think that his company is not going well. Of course, it is also like that in France but to a lesser extent.

Hence the success of sales of premium cars. The car is unconsciously associated with power. A hummer shows the power of the driver.





Chinese spends much more time than westerners using their mobile phone..

Some Chinese bosses have phones that exude luxury:

  • 24K gold coated
  • Latest technology
  •  High-end

The phone number is important. There are cheap numbers and lucky numbers that are supposed to bring fortune.

For instance, 518, which sounds like wo yao fa, which means “I’ll get rich”. 26 Shunli means “I will grow smoothly”. 188 “yao fa fa” means “I’m rich and happy”.

Some numbers are bought and sold at exorbitant prices.

Business card

Business card


At the beginning of a business meeting in China, you must know that exchange of business cards is like a ceremony. You just have to think about this amazing scene from “American Psycho”:


Making a business card in China is not necessarily expensive. But for a CEO, the card should be special.

An upscale business card must use top-quality paper with intense color, and special print reflection. The choice of characters also shows the level of culture of the card owner…

The business card must give a good impression of the person. Something like “He must be a great man! “

There is only an exception concerning civil service officers who usually have a very simple business card with the logo of the People’s Republic of China.

The Delegation

Business delegation

A Chinese businessman with a big face will never travel alone. He will always be surrounded by a delegation, relatives, translators, and sometimes one or two “Mei Nv” (pretty girl).

Everything is calculated, and everyone has a role to play.




美女 (pretty girls)

美女(Pinyin: Mei Nv)Pretty girls in China relax the atmosphere and give a certain harmony. Then a Meinu pretty girl may have a role to play in the seduction of a business partner.

It is human: a man will be much more relaxed if a pretty girl is around. The Chinese are very pragmatic one should never forget.

The mistresses 🙂


In China, “the success of a businessman is often measured by the number of his mistresses”.  This provocative statement made Tag Heuer the owner of the famous luxury watches company. Of course, it is excessive but it is not meaningless.

It is not uncommon for a businessman to present his mistress at an informal appointment and then his wife at an official meeting.

A relationship of trust is then enhanced between you and him.

Why does he present his mistress?

Because she’s pretty, young, and sexy and that shows you that he enjoys a great life. In China, having one or several mistresses is a sign of wealth.

In China, you have to take good care of your mistress by buying her an apartment, a car, jewelry, or any kind of luxury goods such as the famous Louis Vuitton bags.

The ideal wife

Ideal wife


According to Chinese traditional values, the ideal wife must be traditional which means a good cook, quiet, loving, gentle, obedient, and caring for the children.

Asian culture requires a successful man to earn enough money so that his wife does not need to work.


Big business requires a big office




A boss who has a 100 m2 office, a mini golf course, an aquarium with exotic fish very expensive, spacious leather chairs, and a desk that is expensive will gain face simply because his partners or customers returning from his office will think to have some respect for him.


Being international


Being international



A company that sells internationally, or who buys imported products gains respect.

CEOs in China often have stories about former business trips in Germany, the Canadian green cards they have, or the vacation they spent with their wife in Paris.

A Chinese businessman who has opened offices in Berlin, London, or New York … is seen as a man who succeeded.




expensive house



If a Chinese invites you to his house, it is a good sign. It means that he thinks that he can trust you and that he wants you to share his intimacy.

Home in China is really the facade of your life. It must be modern, luxurious, large, and clean.

A Flat Screen, a Japanese Hifi, chairs in luxurious leather, string lights made by an interior designer, a fully equipped kitchen, an American fridge, an Italian bathroom …

You must know that Chinese people are very knowledgeable about the real estate market prices of their city, and the cost of accommodation. This is very common in China to discuss with friends the price of your house, the price of the square meter in your area, and so on.

So if your apartment is not very classy or tidy, it is better for you to avoid inviting. Indeed you will face the risk of losing your reputation.




Guānxi (关系) – You Are Who You Know


Chinese will always tell you, what matters is not what you can do, but who you know. This proverb means that the network in China is essential, especially in the North.

Chinese like to tell stories (true or not) to have a face:

  • “Yesterday when you called me I had dinner with the mayor of Dalian “
  • “The brother of my wife knows the number 7 of the Communist party and this guy is a good guy”
  • “Come play golf Saturday, I would present you the number 2 of VW in China. “
  • “You have customs issues … next week I expect you to introduce the Manager of Customs we will see what he can do”


The list is long, but I hope this will give you a rough idea of what the concept of  “Mianzi” in China can recover.

If you have other examples, do not hesitate to share it. ;-)


Olivier VEROT

Marketing China


  • B.BarNavi

    So if you can fluff up your image in an immoral, nihilistic, and superficial society, you can do business successfully in China!

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