Negotiations in China can take much longer and include more niceties than typical western salary negotiations. The long term business relationship comes before the immediate result of the negotiation, and it’s vital to maintain the senior parties’ face by refraining from using aggressive tactics or overtly pointing out mistakes, especially when subordinates are around. Also, when one point of the discussion is renegotiated, the Chinese view all items as reopened for discussion – be mindful of this, particularly if the negotiation is time sensitive. Be ready to discuss the contract, the company’s current situation, and the terms and conditions as well as salary negotiations.

Mistakes foreigners make

What are the biggest mistakes foreigners make when negotiating salaries in China?

It’s not a methodology issue, but an information issue. Back home, people commonly have an idea of average salaries for their job sector, but in China, candidates are often going in blind. Because of this, it’s important to put in due diligence and find out for yourself what your job typically pays in China. If you haven’t been asked by the company to relocate, you shouldn’t expect to be paid much more than a local in a similar position.

There was a time when foreigners could be paid roughly twice the salary of a Chinese counterpart, based on their nationality and language skills alone. Today, to get a higher salary, you need specialized skills and a strong background. If candidates are not sure what the market rate is, they can ask the employer what salary they are offering for the position. The employer will have one in mind and negotiate accordingly based on background, experience, and benefits.


What tips would you give job seekers about negotiating in China?

Be strategic, do your research, and prepare in advance. Make sure you understand what cards you have and lay them down one by one rather than showing your hand all at once. While every situation is different, you generally cannot expect too much transparency. If possible, you should attempt to frame the solution as a win-win and avoid causing the other party to lose face when they agree to your terms.


What challenges do you face as an HR company mediating between companies and potential candidates?

It’s the challenge the potential middle man faces keeping both parties happy by filling any gaps in communication and understanding. The best way to do this is to give both parties enough personal attention, and fully understand their conflicts and convey them to the other party in a way that they understand.

Bringing up the raise

What is the best way to bring up a raise at your company?

Chinese businesses tend to be very results-oriented, so if you’re looking for a raise, you should be able to show what results you have produced for your employer. If possible, you should point to concrete results that can be measured quantitatively, preferably regarding revenues. If you show your employer your value in a way that they understand, they will be much more likely to agree to your request.

The counter argument

What are the most common arguments companies use to negotiate against a salary increase and what are the best ways to counter-argue?

Employers may point to instances where you did not achieve the results they desired or claim that they don’t believe you’ve added enough value to merit a raise. That’s why it’s so important, as mentioned above, to present your value precisely and quantitatively. It does require some prep work, but it increases your chances of successful salary negotiations, and, as a bonus, helps your boss understand what you’ve achieved. If you’re able to say, “I produced x RMB of revenues for this company last quarter as a direct result of XYZ projects,” and back up your claim with data; it will be hard for your employer to argue against you.

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