Luxury on form

“Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” So goes the motto at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in China’s capital, Beijing. Chinese culture treats concepts such as lady-like and gentlemanly behaviour with notable acquiescence. In a country that values highly such oft-forgotten traits of elegance and discretion of character, this isn’t surprising. However, the Chinese do reserve a particular soft spot for quintessential English manners. An Englishman is considered a gentleman in China today if his common courtesy suggests even the slightest adherence to etiquette. It is the historical ‘height of etiquette’ of English culture meanwhile that drives Ritz-Carlton’s outstanding service towards its clientele. Situated in Beijing’s Chaoyang business district, the hotel’s conference and meeting rooms entertain an altogether different breed of protocol, one very much of the modern era which currently witnesses China’s fresh hold on the global market economy.


Like many of the Ritz-Carlton’s foreign clients, a westerner on business in China may feel initially as though they had been returned to a different era rather than a different country. The portrait-flanked lobby with its country manor architecture assures the deracinated passenger they are now among the denizens of luxury and comfort. One who is wearily regaled may let off a heavy sigh at the interior imitation design of 17th Century England. One perhaps a little apprehensive of Chinese cuisine will find respite in a familiar yet delicate choice of European restaurants including the French Aroma bistro and the piedmont-style Italian Barolo.

A Cantonese restaurant named Yu meanwhile offers a more local flavour to the palate rearing to embark. The Ritz-Carlton’s spa provides a Balinese massage bed and ancient treatments that serve as traditional Chinese rituals to balance natural, physical and mental energies. Yet all this is an essential counterbalance for the Ritz-Carlton client on business whose vocation demands grappling with a clash of cultures.


Doing business used to require only that companies locked hands and were seated a required number of hours before thrashing out contracts. Evidently, business etiquette is changing. As China flies its flag among the world’s leading economies, the corporate bull of the West has had to learn patience over charging headfirst on sight of a red invitation. Chinese businesses can take a remarkably long time to agree to contracts. The reason is partly due to China’s heavily regulated industry.

China’s government plays a firm hand in monitoring Chinese businesses and meetings often involve party officials sent to intervene in the decision making process. Chinese respect for hierarchy also demands that representatives properly correspond according to their rank. As in chess, a person’s role within a company determines their license to accost others. A knight who flouts their domain and ends up obstructing a king risks inflicting a miasma on the proceedings.

Tolerance alone will not suffice to nurture the West’s relationship with China. After all, China does not simply tolerate western culture. The Ritz-Carlton shows demonstrably how China studiously assimilates western traditions to obtain a thorough comprehension of what it values. This appreciation for foreign etiquette at such a relatively early stage in China’s development pays the greatest compliment to the West, one that the West must eventually return with time. –

by Jack Aldane

Ritz-Carlton Beijing, 83A Jian Guo Road, China Central Place, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100025, China
Tel:  +86 10 5908 8888

About The Author

Glass Magazine financial correspondent

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