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Looking to access the Chinese life science research market?

Kristina Whitfield

Nov 28, 2016

China 4

Author: Kristina Whitfield Undertakes marketing activities for Pivotal Scientific and their clients.

Kristina Whitfield


To access the Chinese research market an understanding of their culture and business practise must be at the forefront of your mind.  China has carved out its own business path with limited influence from the Western business world. Pivotal Scientific experiences have found that though many companies are interested in accessing the Chinese market, taking the first steps can be daunting.

Tim Bernard (Pivotal Scientific’s CEO) has visited China many times over the years and with the help of his PA, Sue Timms, Tim has organised a number of successful trips. The objective of each trip is for Tim to host Western distributors who are visiting their Chinese suppliers whilst also introducing opportunities for business deals with new Chinese suppliers.

Due to his time spent out in China, Tim has built up a great wealth of knowledge regarding the business culture of China, including how to travel and the legal requirements involved when visiting the country.  Tim’s next trip will be in March 2017 and to provide some details of what a business trip to China entails please read on.

Organising The Trip

When arranging to visit a Chinese company a letter of invitation is required from them so you can present the letter when applying for your visa. Pivotal Scientific can assist distributors with this process and provide any advice required. Once meetings with suppliers have been agreed the next step will be to manage the logistics of the trip.

Pivotal Scientific will book all hotels and arrange transport – we have learnt from previous experience that not using pre-booked taxis can cause confusion and delays and driving yourself is certainly not recommend! We have found that speaking to the concierge of the hotel and allowing them to arrange transport to and from the airport is best practise.

As you may be aware, Western distributors are often approached on a weekly basis by Chinese suppliers offering their products, but knowing who can provide good quality products can be tricky.  Distributors therefore find this trip very useful as it enables them to meet with prospective new suppliers who have been previously audited by us.

Business etiquette when visiting a Chinese company

When visiting a Chinese manufacture we would recommend allocating a day or, at the very least, half a day.  The supplier will often send transport themselves and they always try to be very accommodating. The companies can be up to 2 hours away, even longer with traffic jams, so budgeting for a long journey time is recommended. When visiting a supplier we would recommend smart business dress for both men and women.

Once you arrive, a typical agenda might be:

  • Introductions
  • A tour of the building
  • Presentations by yourself and the supplier
  • Meetings
  • Lunch
  • And, if time, they will take you sight seeing

There is a culture of gift giving which is seen as polite business practice. It is customary to bring a gift that represents your country which can then be handed over in a ceremony during which you probably will receive a gift in return.  Toasting is also very popular. The host will conduct the toasts followed by the touching of glasses with the person next to you before taking the drink. Chinese wine or beer will be served for this but please be aware it is quite alcoholic and if you have had enough you should not finish your glass as it will be refilled!

It is customary for a feast to be provided consisting of fresh food with meat usually served on the bone. There will be plenty to choose from with lots of specialist dishes on offer. It is polite to be seen to be tasting as many as possible. Likewise with the drink, once you have had your fill you should place your chop sticks down as continuing to nibble at the food will mean dishes will keep being provided.

Import and Export

In China, Chinese suppliers will use many distributors to sell their products and apply the same principles when looking for new distributors in Europe and America. Pivotal Scientific will work with the Chinese suppliers informing them that one distributor per country is enough whilst also working with them to try and obtain exclusivity with that distributor.

The China trip can also facilitate important import business deals.  Pivotal Scientific has facilitated excursions for Western suppliers who are looking for Chinese distributors to sell their technology into China. There is a large market for Western products in China as they are looked upon favourably by Chinese research teams.

The Future

Pivotal Scientific is aware that China is an expanding market and to make this market even more accessible a new Pivotal Scientific member of staff, based in China, will start early next year. Their role will be varied but will include: auditing suppliers, assisting with sales channels into China and helping with language translation during these trips to China. Once successful deals have been made our staff member will also be able to help with future continued communication between suppliers and distributors.

To join Tim on his trip to China in March 2017 please contact Sue Timms by the end of December 2016.

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