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Over the past decade, China’s middle class has exploded and surpassed the total population of the United States. The growing importance of the Chinese consumer market continues to present an opportunity for companies seeking to expand their market size. Yet, China is a unique place and conducting business in The Middle Kingdom does not come without its risks. In this post, Global Guardian highlights what you need to know for business travel to China.

“I HAVE a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.”

The business culture in East Asia, especially in China, is radically different than that of the West and many parts of the developing world. Even if you’re on your best behavior, it is quite possible to inadvertently offend your host and even derail a relationship. Heed the advice below to prevent any cultural slip-ups.

  • Both physical and eye contact are faux-pas in China. Avoid hugs, back slaps, and looking directly into the eyes of strangers/new acquaintances.

Business Cards

Business cards are customarily exchanged in China. Make sure to:

  • Stand when exchanging cards
  • Have dual-sided Chinese translated cards (one side English, one side simplified Mandarin)
  • Present the Chinese side face up using two hands
  • Always take the time to read a card after it is presented to you
  • NEVER write comments on another person's business card

  • Leaving a tip can embarrass the recipients, it may even be misinterpreted as a bribe (though tipping in Hong Kong is acceptable in high-end establishments).
  • It is considered rude to place chopsticks standing up in a bowl (a symbol of death). Rest chopsticks on a chopstick holder instead.

Meeting Decorum
  • The most senior person begins the greetings. Greet the oldest, most senior person before others.
  • In group introductions, line up according to seniority with the senior person at the head of the line.
  • Use family names and titles to refer to yourself and colleagues (married women retain their maiden names). Example: John Smith, CEO of ACMECorp
  • Chinese people point with an open hand. NEVER point with you index finger.
  • Respect and reputation are paramount in Chinese culture. NEVER criticize, contradict, or upstage someone during a meeting.

The Great Firewall of China 

The Golden Shield Project, colloquially known as “The Great Firewall of China” (GFW), is a combination of a legal framework and technological system, whereby the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regulates the internet within Mainland China. It is a highly complex and technologically sophisticated system designed to prevent political mobilization and

Great Firewall of Chinathwart the flow of any information the CCP deems a threat to the regime.  As such, the internet in China essentially functions as a separate entity from the internet abroad, and all communication between the global and Mainland internet is filtered through the GFW. The GFW utilizes several methods to control the internet: URL filtering (denial of access is based on keywords); manual and self-censorship (the government employees censors flag and filter content, while individuals and corporations understand that content that violates the law will be met with harsh penalties); and DNS poisoning (the GFW breaks the connection between devices and blocked websites, preventing contact). Blocked platforms include social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), blogging, email services (Google), search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.), messaging applications (WhatsApp), streaming sites (Netflix), news outlets (NYT, WSJ, FT, etc.) and cloud storage (Google, Slideshare, Dropbox, etc.). While it is possible to circumvent the GFW by using a virtual private network (VPN), the authorities have the capacity to block many of them.    

Image Source: Smartwell

You Are a Target    

China's state-sponsored hacking outfits are of the most sophisticated in world. It has a very long and successful history of penetrating corporate information technology systems. The government and many state-linked enterprises have expansive efforts in place to acquire U.S. technology, including sensitive trade secrets and intellectual property. If you are traveling to China for business purposes, you should assume that you are of interest to a hostile actor.



  • It is possible that the government or the security team of a host organization will compel travelers to log into their devices for inspection, raising the likelihood of compromise by malware.
  • Utilize Global Guardian-issued “burner” mobile devices. Only travel with essential devices that are free of sensitive material.
  • Bring a portable USB device with hardware-based encryption if there are essential files needed for a trip.

Unsecure Networks 

  • Hostile actors have access to networks, including hotel networks and WIFI. This can raise the possibility of intercepting sensitive information (sensitive files, passwords/credentials)
  • If email is required, use trip specific and non-enterprise secure email solutions.Create a dedicated account for travel and instruct colleagues and assistants to direct urgent messages to that account.
  • Use secure encrypted messaging services instead of SMS or other insecure chat services.
  • Enable two factor authentication for access to your password manager.
  • Consider using an Apple iPad or mobile phone instead of bringing a laptop.
  • Use a portable USB device with hardware-based encryption to manage documents instead of accessing them over the cloud.
  • If you bring a laptop, ensure that it and its applications are patched and make sure you enable hard drive encryption.


  • China possesses a sophisticated surveillance system based on a vast array of cameras and sensors, aided by facial and voice recognition software and artificial intelligence. There is a risk of very high-resolution cameras being trained on keyboards to capture login credentials and collect biometric information.
  • USB charging ports in hotel rooms and public venues can also be used to access your devices in order to copy information or to install malware.
  • Use a dedicated VPN and diagnostic hardware on ALL mobile devices (smartphone, laptop, and tablet) at ALL times.
  • Bring your own USB charging port for all foreign travel.
  • Be mindful that you are being watched.



Standing by to Support...

Global Guardian has the tools and experience necessary to identify and defend against cyber attacks from China. We strongly recommend Global Guardian’s cyber security suite of services to include:

  • Next generation firewalls that can consume and utilize targeted intelligence
  • Endpoint system upgrades on all computers, to include anti-evasion software
  • Removal of passwords in favor of newer, easier to use, and
    safer multi-factor authentication systems
  • 24 x 7 Cyber Monitoring, Hunting, and Response

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