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Chinese business culture essentials

​Knowledge of Chinese etiquette has become invaluable as business dealings with China increase. But what is also crucial is an awareness of the much broader context of Chinese culture. Core cultural values and beliefs exist throughout the Chinese community, including business relationships. Understanding them can be essential to the success of a business meeting or negotiation. In this short course you'll discover a broad overview of Chinese culture by completing 4 units, with each unit expected to take 8–9 hours to study. Over a total of 36 hours, you'll explore topics including language, building trust, hierarchical society and gift-giving. It will also identify the potential challenges these present. You'll even learn some useful expressions in Mandarin Chinese and simplified characters along the way.

After successfully completing this short course, you will receive a digital badge. This can be shared on social media, added to email signatures or act as a certificate.

Standalone study only

You will not be awarded credits for studying this course. It is available for standalone study only and cannot be counted towards an OU qualification.

Short course

Short course code



This is a non-credit bearing course.

Study method

Short course cost

Entry requirements

What you will study

Business dealings with China are on the increase. More and more people are realising that they need to do more than have knowledge of a list of the ‘dos and don’ts’ of Chinese etiquette. Following rules such as presenting business cards with both hands, or not opening gifts in front of your hosts, can help a business meeting or negotiation be successful. But to create positive, long-term business relationships, what you’ll need is an understanding of the much broader context of Chinese culture and values that permeate Chinese business contexts.

This short course introduces you to some core Chinese cultural beliefs and values. Using stories and reflections from Westerners who have lived and worked in China, it will also highlight some potential challenges you may face.

China is a huge country with diverse cultures, and this course focuses on just a few fundamental aspects of Chinese culture, engaging you with reflective activities. You’ll gain a critical appreciation of different approaches. You’ll develop a better understanding of Chinese business culture, and more effective communication in Chinese business contexts.

This course is divided into four units:

  • language, culture and intercultural competence
  • hierarchical society and power relationships
  • guānxi, miànzi and building trust
  • harmony, gift-giving and traditional festivals.

As part of the course you will learn some useful expressions in Mandarin Chinese, share your thoughts with other students via a dedicated online forum, and keep an online downloadable record of your thoughts and answers to some questions, which will help you consider and reflect upon a number of cultural scenarios.

By the end of the course you’ll have developed a degree of cultural intelligence and intercultural sensitivity that can be applied beyond Chinese-speaking cultures.

Please note that although this course is non-accredited, it can be used towards the module Making your learning count (YXM130) to gain OU credits.

You will learn

In the context of working within Chinese culture, whether this be business trips, hosting delegations, partnerships with Chinese organisations, or simply doing business in this market, this course aims to help you:

  • raise your cultural awareness and improve your intercultural competence
  • develop and integrate intercultural skills and strategies in Chinese business contexts
  • reflect on and deepen your understanding of why China is a hierarchical society, and its impact when conducting business in China
  • explore the concepts of guānxi, Confucius values, harmony and miànzi that underpin Chinese business dealings
  • communicate more effectively with the Chinese people you interact with
  • master some essential Mandarin Chinese expressions.

Learner support

The course is taught entirely online. You will have access to online forums that you are strongly encouraged to participate in, as they are an excellent source of support and information. These forums combine self-help from fellow students with input from specialist learning advisers.

If you have a disability

The course is delivered online and makes use of a variety of online resources. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs. 

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying LG002 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations, which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

There are no entry requirements for this course. It’s suitable if you are completely new to Chinese and to language learning, and it does not assume any prior knowledge.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact us.

Course length

This course is made up of 4 units, with each unit expected to take 8–9 hours to study. In total, you'll need around 36 hours to complete the course.

You can begin at any time during the life of the course and study at your own pace. The course will be open to you for a time period of between 6 and 18 months depending on your course registration date and you will be advised of the specific time limitations upon enrolment.


Start End England fee Register
At anytime before registration end date Jun 2025 - see Entry requirements for more detail £195.00

Registration closes 31/07/2024


Ways to pay

Credit/Debit Card – We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron.

Sponsorship – If this course is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could ask your employer to sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. Your sponsor just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.

The fee information provided here is valid for short courses starting in the 2024/25 academic year. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

All learning materials are delivered entirely online and there is no formal tuition for this course.

Your study is self-directed and you’ll have access to a course website, which includes:

  • a unit-by-unit study planner
  • course-specific materials and activities
  • audio and video content
  • discussion forums and a course forum
  • support from specialist learning advisers.

Computing requirements

You'll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS Ventura or higher.

Functionality may be limited on mobile devices. For example, voice recorder activities, which are common in language short courses, may not work on iOS/Apple devices.

Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.