Face, favour and positioning - a Chinese power game

T.K.P. Leung, Yee Kwong Chan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


This study is an initial attempt to look at the relationships among “inducement factors”, “face work” and “favour” from a Hong Kong‐China intra‐cultural negotiation environment. The model in this paper was modified from Hwang's paper on the same subject that has not been followed up in the past 13 years. The findings suggest that “face work” has four dimensions, namely “reciprocity”, “response”, “respect”, and “reputation”. Hong Kong negotiators, because of their similar ethnical background, manipulate these four dimensions to align themselves with powerful Chinese parties so as to help them negotiate through the complex Chinese relational society. They have three positions in the Chinese market, i.e. the impresser, smoother and cruel. By positioning themselves as “impressers”, the Hong Kong negotiators have the least psychic distance and transaction cost with their Chinese counterparts. Foreign negotiators are advised to use “face work” as a cultural strategy to help them negotiate through the complex business network in China. Also, they remember to practice this strategy widely because a not‐so‐important person may become a very important person in the future and therefore foreign negotiators will benefit on a longer term basis. They should also position themselves as “impresser” to give a modest image in the eyes of their Chinese counterparts. Modesty is highly valued in the Chinese society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1575-1598
Number of pages24
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Market position
  • National cultures
  • Negotiating
  • China

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing

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