This article analyzes authentic negotiation encounters between a Danish buyer and several predominantly Chinese sellers at a jewelry fair in China. Three recurring themes were identified in the data: different negotiation styles (a preference for an indirect mitigated style in the Chinese negotiators as opposed to a preference for a direct unmitigated approach in the Western negotiator), linguistic accommodation, and small talk about the interlocutor's place of residence, which is interpreted as strategic communication in which negotiators are allowed to check the interlocutor's financial viability without loss of face. The article acknowledges that claims about the importance of negotiators' cultural backgrounds need to be demonstrated rather than presumed, but it also argues that an analysis of predominant Chinese cultural value systems (such as face and the guanxi-concept) is likely to lead to a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of Sino-Western negotiations. The article advocates a combination of in-depth discourse analysis and studies of micro-as well as macro-contextual value and norms - i.e., a truly pragmatic approach to cross-cultural encounters - as the way forward in the study of business negotiations.
Intercultural Pragmatics, 2011, Vol 8, Issue 2, p. 197-226