WHAT distinguishes the Chinese when they are across the negotiating table? Face? Guanxi ? These cliches are not succinct enough to sum up the characteristics of more than 1.2 billion people in a country with a long history and a vast mixture of cultures. For Westerners doing business in China, negotiating with those from the Middle Kingdom can be a mind-boggling and time-consuming task. Many rely on word of mouth from other foreigners, or simply their own experience of dealing with the Chinese. Now a book about such experiences and survival tips is coming in handy for both new and experienced negotiators alike. Negotiating China , published by Allen & Unwin, is seen as a compass to guide Westerners through the labyrinth around the negotiating tables in China. The author, Carolyn Blackman, said the book was based on her experiences as a negotiator in China. Blackman, now director of the International Business Centre at University of Ballarat in Australia, became the country's first Mandarin radio broadcaster in 1967. She made her first trip to China in 1978 and two years later began a 10-year stint negotiating with officials and businessmen to organise special interest tours in China. Emphasising the need for Westerners to recognise the similarities between the Chinese and other nationalities, Blackman begins the book with a detailed chart of Chinese characteristics matched with tactics for Westerners. She gives three main causes of negotiating difficulties in China: the Chinese manner; the influence of the surrounding environment; and the complications of culture. Blackman describes the Chinese society as 'a haggling' one, in contrast to the common perception of the Chinese value being 'harmony, good relationships and politeness'. The book provides a step-by-step guide for every phase of negotiations, matching them with vivid case studies ranging from a fight over a piece of pork in a food market to a Sino-Japanese row over one of China's biggest steel projects, Baoshan Iron and Steel plant in Shanghai. The lack of rule of law makes business more personal, and building trust is time-consuming but very important, according to Blackman, who quotes a Chinese saying: 'Above are government policies, below are the people's counter-policies'. Blackman warns that bribes can be dangerous for Westerners, but concedes that guanxi will certainly enhance the negotiations. Blackman said patience was one of the keys to a successful deal. 'It's just a matter of time. Watching and really taking time, as you should do in business,' she said.