RED, GOLD,  Lucky numbers like 88, & other Good Luck gestures ...






The Chinese like to use bureaucracy to their favour when they want to stall negotiations. When the Chinese are indeed interested, they will strive to establish bonds of trust to advance the cause.    

As in western culture, inadvertent violation of local customs makes it easy to join the ranks of those who have failed.  Basic rules of negotiating with Chinese are not fundamentally different from a western approach

  • Earn trust;

  • Be sincere;

  • Have patience and think long term;

  • Have a ‘quality’ introduction.

Be aware of idiosyncrasies such as lucky numbers which are rooted with '8' in Cantonese, a homonym sounding very much like Prosperity which explain the Chinese preference for that number in license plates, addresses, telephone numbers.  Three sounds very much like Life representing longevity.  Avoid generally the number '4' because it sounds like Death; and certain combinations with '5' are not always good.   Folkloric, yes, but beware nevertheless.  

Red is a good luck colour.  Johnny Walker Red outsells other scotches. White is a colour associated with death.  Minimizing risk can be as simple as colour and good numbers.  I have something red with me at key events like closings and I am not especially superstitious. 

The ancient principles of Feng Shui or geomancy as it is sometimes referred to in the West are principles affecting ways to place and arrange furniture, rooms and buildings.  Their placements in relation to the forces affect marketability and liquidity of real estate.  The role of the geomancer should not be overlooked in negotiation with architects, interior designers, lawyers, realtors, and chartered surveyors.  City Halls might take a more flexible approach in jurisdictions looking to attract Chinese investment and several proactive actions can facilitate dealmaking.  Its is a matter of priorities in the Chinese hierarchical structure. 

Be aware of issues where the Chinese might be judgmental in areas such as: information, time management, risk analysis, networking and interpersonal skills, technological and academic adaptiveness, consistent profitability and growth, efficiency and language skills.  Their belief in their superior information in a short time frame allows them to ‘test’ to determine competency in soliciting information, particularly when searching for professional services.

Above all, always allow room to negotiate and allow both parties ‘Face’ (more on this subject later).  Hard line answers with no allowance for discussion seems to be a common error with Westerners and almost always prevent negotiations from advancing.  Dialogue usually stops abruptly.  

In my own experience of dealing with Chinese, they are extremely well informed on the West with technical research sourced in Asia - Internet is becoming widespread.  Processing information with the fastest technology is the norm since many Chinese are now educated in the west.  Witness at the boarding schools overseas,  that it’s often the Asian students who have the most technologically advanced laptop computers and gadgets.  Typically, Asians will have more statistical information on technical aspects than their western counterparts.  Add the Asian's requirement for ''a special deal”  (implied just for him to give “Face”).     

Good manners and etiquette are important in both eastern and western culture.  'Bow and Scrape' is an attitude appropriate in all cultures but especially important given the structure and hierarchy of the East.  Respect for tradition is part of the ancient culture.  Hong Kong is a place of middle ground that is now taking on a Citizen of the World approach to manners.  It is also a wonderful place to watch and learn the art of negotiations with baptism by fire.  That is where I learned to quicken the pace and therefore operate more efficiently.

An effort to understand the Asian approach will ensure successful long-term dealings with the Chinese and minimize risks and efforts.   - by ANDREA ENG


Lafite hits jackpot with packaging that targets the Chinese

On December 27, 2010 a robust market led by China and a lucky '8' have pushed up prices on the grand cru by 590 per cent.

It was a smart move by Lafite to emboss the Chinese character for '8' on its 2008 bottles, said George Tong, a prominent Hong Kong businessman and wine collector. That fuelled a gold rush for fine wine investors.

'The pronunciation of '8' in Chinese rhymes with that of the word 'fortune',' explained Mr Tong. 'The Chinese are superstitious and believe that having an '8' engraved on the bottle will bring fortune and make a nice gift.'

Lafite is the rock star of fine wine in China, the fastest growing wine market, and the 2008 packaging affirms China's status.

'I thought it would be a nice way to say 'hello', and 'thank you' to the Chinese people,' said Mr Salin of his packaging initiative.

The 2008 vintage, sold by the chateau as a futures commodity in 2009 and shipping this February, is an unlikely blockbuster.

Released when customers of Bordeaux were hamstrung by frozen credit lines and collapsing sales, it received good but not outstanding scores from critics and was sold nearly 50 per cent cheaper than the weaker 2007 vintage.

Since then, the fine wine market has begun to rebound and the stellar, exorbitantly priced 2009 vintage has overshadowed the 2008.

In fact, the surge came quite unexpectedly last October at Sotheby's Hong Kong auction of 2,000 bottles of Lafite direct from the chateau's cellars.

The headline sale was a bottle of 1869 Lafite, estimated to be worth US$8,000 a bottle, but which sold for US$233,972, making it the most expensive bottle of wine on the planet.

'It was surreal,' said Mr Salin, who was already in shock from the second sale of the night. The 2008 vintage, estimated to be worth US$666 a bottle, sold for US$2,860 per bottle.

Word had leaked out about the Chinese-friendly packaging and speculation heated the market.

'We must have sold 600 cases of Lafite in the 10 days after the auction with a 10-15 per cent uptick in the prices' across the board since the auction, said Gary Boom, managing director of wine merchant Bordeaux Index. They were all vintages of Lafite.

'The auction has had an interesting effect on the market,' agreed Nick Pegna, managing director of Berry Bros & Rudd in Hong Kong. 'There's been a raft of further speculation on the market.'

Another big winner has been Chateau Mouton Rothschild. Prices on the Mouton 2008 vintage rose 60 per cent in the weeks following the Lafite auction results, based on a rumour that the Baroness de Rothschild had selected a Chinese artist to design its label.

On the Monday that the label by Beijing artist Xu Lei was revealed, Bordeaux Index sold its entire stock of 2008 Mouton.

'As a Chinese, I am very proud because someone in my country is designing the label for one of the best wines in the world,' said George Tong, echoing the response of other Asian connoisseurs.

'I am absolutely delighted about the success of my cousins at Lafite, ours and that of all the Bordeaux grand crus in China,' said Baroness de Rothschild, who personally selects the artist and label each year.

The Baroness nevertheless cautioned about the dangers of exaggerated prices. To date, the 2008 Mouton has gained nearly 380 per cent in value since its release on futures in April 2009, according to Joe Marchant, co-head of Bordeaux Index's Investment Group.

Demand is likely to remain high with the addition of American wine lovers. -- AFP    2010 December 27

The day every Chinese woman wants to give birth     
Eights are lucky – or so hordes of expectant mothers hope

Chinese doctors are bracing for a hectic day on Aug. 8. It's an auspicious day, the long-awaited opening of the Beijing Games, and a day when many of their patients will demand cesarean sections to ensure a lucky birthday for their babies.

Hospitals in Beijing are expecting a miniature baby boom on that August day as superstitious parents do everything possible to ensure their infants are born on the opening day of the Olympics, according to doctors quoted yesterday by the Beijing News, a leading newspaper here.

Birth rates will peak on Aug. 8, and hospitals are adding new beds and shortening their minimum stays to cope with the anticipated surge.

The Olympic baby phenomenon shows the continuing grip that numerology, superstition and other traditions have on Chinese life. Even the precise timing of the opening ceremony, at 8:08 p.m. on the eighth day of the eighth month of 2008, was chosen because eight is considered lucky.

A growing number of Chinese women are choosing to accept the medical risks of a cesarean section in order to have their babies born on an auspicious day or year. On the advice of their feng shui masters, some women are opting for cesareans up to two months earlier than their due date in order to give birth on a lucky day.

It's among the leading reasons why China now has one of the world's highest rates of C-sections, more than 10 times higher than the rate in the 1970s and far above the 15 per cent rate thought reasonable by the World Health Organization.

An astonishing 50 per cent of Chinese births are C-sections, dramatically higher than the average of 5 per cent recorded from the 1950s to the 1970s, according to a report by the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

Thousands of Beijing women chose to have cesarean sections in 2004 to ensure that their babies would be born in the Year of the Monkey, considered a lucky year in the Chinese lunar calendar. The birth rate in 2004 was far higher than a typical year. One exhausted obstetrician in Beijing said he did a dozen C-sections on a single night in the fall of 2004.

Surgery, of course, is not the only tactic in the struggle for a lucky birthday. Last fall, Xinhua reported that many Chinese couples were trying to conceive a baby in October so that they would have a chance at an Olympic baby.

"If my wife is lucky enough to deliver an 'Olympic baby,' the luck means something more than family joy," one husband told Xinhua.

To maximize their chances of conceiving a lucky baby, he and his wife chose to "stay at home" instead of joining the crowds of tourists during the October national holiday, the agency said.

If they cannot arrange a birth on Aug. 8, many Chinese parents are still determined to have an "Olympic baby" by giving birth some time this year, even if it requires artificial help. "More and more couples are trying artificial insemination to make their Olympic-baby dream come true," the Shanghai Evening News reported yesterday.

China is projecting 18 million births this year, which is about 500,000 more than last year, according to media reports.

China already has more than 3,000 children who were named Aoyun (Olympic) in the past few years, and another 4,000 children were named after China's five official Olympic mascots.

But the expected Olympic baby boom will have a negative side, beyond just the medical risks of cesarean sections.

Health experts are warning that the quality of medical treatment will deteriorate during the baby boom because of equipment shortages and overworked staff. And the new wave of children will face increased competition in schools, universities and the labour market.

On the positive side, the Chinese media are predicting a big increase in sales of baby products, milk powder and baby clothes this year.  - by Geoffrey York  GLOBE & MAIL    2008 February 27


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