Negotiation lessons from the China-US relationship

The United States’ relationship with China has always been important and newsworthy. There is a long history of cooling and warming of diplomatic and political relations, creating the need for cross cultural negotiations. Currently, the public rhetoric between both countries has become heated over public disagreements on major issues like Iran, cyber-spying and Tibet.

The Sunday Los Angeles Times presented a very insightful editorial: Back and Forth with Beijing (,0,2603153.story ) This opinion piece lays out various disagreements between the U.S. and China, and how both sides have dealt with these.

The editors write the following:

“The United States and China are prone to misunderstandings, and serious, long-standing disagreements between the two countries over issues such as Taiwan and Tibet were never going to be resolved overnight — nor will they be resolved in the near future. … The United States frequently alternates between carrots and sticks in its foreign policy, and neither works all that well by itself. The relationship with our biggest competitor — and, not incidentally, biggest debt collector — is a long-term endeavor that requires maturity and nuance on both sides. Mutual respect may not succeed at first, but posturing and public scolding are almost always ineffective.”

There are several negotiation lessons that can be gleaned from the way the United States and China deal with each other:

• Some issues are too complex to be resolved immediately
• Mutual respect is always advisable
• Culture affects how issues are perceived
• Be careful of what you say publicly
• To negotiate successfully, you have to be willing to concede on certain issues and hold firm on others
• In any negotiation, there are both carrots and sticks. Learn which works best for each situation.
• Disagreements do not end negotiations

And finally:
• Negotiation is a process that requires learning and adjustment from both sides

What lessons can you draw from the U.S.-China relationship?

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