Cultural Understanding Fails – First Appearance Counts!

In 1972 when Richard Nixon was the President of the US, his visit to China started the process of diplomatic relations between the US and China. Almost 40 years later, his grandson recreated the visit along with his wife, supermarket billionaire heiress Andrea Catsimatidis.  However, this time China and its people seem more focused on his wife’s appearance rather than the recreation of the historically significant visit.

The couple’s trip to China was organised by the Nixon Foundation and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. However it was a PR disaster. To have Catsimatidis accompany her husband Cox in her bright tight revealing dress and with her “platinum blonde hair” to all the famous landmarks in Beijing, which his grandfather once visited: Tiananmen Square, the Great Hall of the People and the Great Wall, could have been a great milestone, instead, everyone was talking about her dress. There were netizens in China who commented that she looked like an “inflatable doll”, or claiming  that her choice of clothing was “disrespectful”.

When CHIN Communications is asked to assist our clients prior to their trips to China, apart from offering our Chinese translation expertise, we also provide them with Chinese cultural understanding and insight, and appropriate dress code is an important part of this. It has been reported that Cox, a 34-year-old investment banker had been to China more than 15 times on business. We would assume that he would have some Chinese understanding. He must be grateful that his grandfather did all the hard work and brought the two countries closer together all those years ago.

First appearances count a lot in China, just like your Chinese business card – both need to be appropriately crafted.

As a footnote: Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam beat Richard Nixon to the punch, and got Australia signed up to Diplomatic Relations with China years ahead of the US.

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