Management of Interpersonal Conflict in Negotiation with Chinese: A Perceived Face Threat Perspective

  • Zhuo-Jia Zhao
  • Hung-Hsin Chen
  • Kevin W. LiEmail author


Despite increasingly frequent business interactions between China and the West, negotiations with Chinese remain a great challenge to most Westerners. Sino-Western discrepancies in cultural values and social norms lead to massive misunderstandings and inevitable conflicts in business negotiations. Grounded on the Politeness Theory (Brown and Levinson in Politeness: some universals in language usage, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1987), this study aims to better predict Chinese negotiation behaviors from an indigenous perspective by exploring the impact of face on Chinese conflict handling strategies. With a sample of 608 Chinese business representatives, this research demonstrates the significant effect of perceived fellowship-, moral-, competence- and autonomy-face threats on Chinese conflict management styles in business negotiations. It is found that Chinese do not always act as politely and agreeably as expected when bargaining with their business partners, especially in a conflict context. Based on their perceptions of face threats induced by various conflict issues, they may adopt different strategies, ranging from competing, collaborating, compromising, accommodating to avoiding, to negotiate with their counterparts. In addition, it is confirmed that both a contextual antecedent (guanxi) and an individual trait (public self-consciousness) will significantly influence Chinese representatives’ face threat perceptions and, subsequently, determine how they will behave in business negotiations.


Business negotiations Conflict management styles Perceived face threat Guanxi Public self-consciousness 



The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 71572040; 71102086). Kevin W. Li is also grateful for the financial support from a Discovery Grant funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC Grant No. RGPIN-2018-05529).


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EconomicsZhejiang University of Finance and EconomicsHangzhouChina
  2. 2.Faculty of Economics and ManagementEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  3. 3.Odette School of BusinessUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada

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