It is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperilled in every single battle.
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Often encapsulated in the catchphrase “know your enemy”, the above quote was cited by Chairman Mao in China as part of his revolutionary manifesto. This and other quotes from The Art of War, an ancient book on military strategy written in the 6th century BC, continue to have a profound influence on China today, particularly in the area of business strategy and negotiation.
As the negotiation experts emphasise, the key to a successful negotiation turns on the ability of each party to meet the interests of the other party and agree on an outcome that is more beneficial than each party’s BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). Understanding the other party and how it might negotiate is of critical importance in this regard.
In this article, I will examine the origin of the word “negotiate” in English and Chinese, and reflect on the differences between the ways in which Chinese and Western parties negotiate.
A former partner of Linklaters Shanghai, Andrew Godwin teaches law at Melbourne Law School in Australia, where he is an associate director of its Asian Law Centre. Andrew’s new book is a compilation of China Business Law Journal’s popular Lexicon series, entitled China Lexicon: Defining and translating legal terms. The book is published by Vantage Asia and available at www.vantageasia.com.