Author: Amanda Mao, PhD, CMPP

China, a vast and dynamic market, offers tremendous opportunities for companies worldwide. However, it also presents unique challenges, particularly when it comes to communication.

Below we present six key insights to master manuscript writing project management working with Chinese pharma and authors.

Silence Does Not Imply Agreement in Chinese Culture

English fluency is still a work in progress for many, even within global companies operating in China. While email communication in English is manageable for some, verbal conversations can be quite challenging.

👉When the discussion is in English, silent; when it switches to Chinese, intensive.👈

Cultural differences and expectations also play a significant role. In Chinese culture, people tend to be more passive and hesitant to
express their opinions, especially if they lack fluency in English.

If you are a Western #MedComms agency working with Chinese clients/partners, it’s crucial to recognize these differences. They may not ask questions or raise concerns unless prompted. However, silence doesn’t indicate agreement. You should proactively engage and encourage questions, ensuring clarity and alignment. When in doubt, don’t brush it off; always seek clarification.

Journal Recommendation

👉Journal recommendation👈 can be a stand-alone project, or can be a step before manuscript writing.

Chinese authors are increasingly seeking the guidance of MedComms agencies to identify suitable journals for publishing their research.

When providing journal recommendations, you should present a curated list of journals instead of a single option. And since Chinese authors stress Impact Factor (IF) the most, always give them a list in order of IF.

Then during your conversations with them, discuss that the IF should not be the sole criterion for deciding where to publish. Encourage them to consider additional aspects such as publication frequency, scope, open access or not, indexing, and publication speed of a journal.

In order to establish your company as an expert and trusted advisor, it is crucial to go beyond being perceived as a service provider or vendor. The above approach on journal recommendation will pave the way for getting repeated business from Chinese pharma clients.

Unintentional Plagiarism

Unintentional plagiarism in manuscript writing among non-native English speakers, for example in the case of Chinese authors:

🔹 Reason 1: Publication ethics, including plagiarism guidelines, are not typically covered in Chinese education systems. So, where can professionals learn about this crucial aspect?

🔹 Reason 2: Some may think that after they translate content in a publication from one language into another, citations aren’t necessary since it’s now in a different language.

🔹 Reason 3: Misconceptions exist that as long as you provide proper citations, using the original text word-for-word without any modification is acceptable.

💡 Let me share my personal experience. When I was a PhD student, scenario number 3 was exactly what I fell into. When my supervisor told me it was plagiarism, I was shocked. I would not do such a thing consciously in a million years!!!

🙌 So, before assuming a non-native English speaker intentionally plagiarized, consider that they might not be aware of all the nuances. Embrace this as an opportunity for a candid discussion, and give them the benefit of the doubt.

✨ In turn, as a professional service provider, your client/partner will respect you, and you have educated one more person in scholarly publishing to do the right thing.

Conflict of Interest

Navigating the world of medical publications can be challenging, especially when it comes to declaring conflicts of interest.

Chinese authors and pharma clients often tend to shy away from declaring conflicts of interest, fearing it may reduce their chances of publication acceptance.

#MedComms agencies and medical publication professionals should emphasize that, on the contrary, when in doubt, always disclose. Doing so will not harm the chances of acceptance; if anything, it is beneficial and it demonstrates transparency. Share with your Chinese clients that by disclosing, not only do they adhere to best practices, but they also demonstrate integrity in their work.

I see this mindset culturally as much as scientifically.


🔬📚 Why do Chinese authors hesitate to disclose acknowledgments in their medical publications?

Having worked closely with Chinese authors and pharma clients, I’ve come across a few possible reasons:

1️⃣ They may fear being perceived as inferior to their peers, who thought these authors could not write papers themselves.

2️⃣ Paper mill practices are rampant in China. According to a 2022 BMJ paper, a staggering 97% of the listed authors in retracted paper mill publications were affiliated with Chinese institutions. As a result, there’s a general perception that all medical writing help originates from paper mills.

Here CMPP (Certified Medical Publication Professional) and GPP (Good Publication Practice, the current version being GPP 2022) come into play. Use these as an opportunity to educate Chinese authors: To ensure transparency and credibility in medical publications, proper acknowledgement plays a crucial role.

Trusted Advisers, Not Order Takers

It’s essential for Western #MedComms agencies to position yourselves as trusted advisors in pubs writing for Chinese pharma clients. 🤝📝

🔍 Understanding the context:
While this might apply universally, it’s particularly pertinent when working with Chinese companies. Paper mills are widespread in China, and Chinese clients need lots of education that your agency has nothing to do with paper mills. 💡📚

🎓 Earning trust and respect:
Chinese clients highly value advanced degrees such as a PhD and certifications such as a CMPP (Certified Medical Publication Professional) as signs of authority. These credentials reinforce your credibility and showcase your expertise in the field of scientific writing. 🎓🏅

💼 Guiding, not just serving:
You are here not merely to take orders as a service provider. Instead, you are knowledgeable guides, leveraging your expertise to lead Chinese clients through the intricacies of scientific publications. This is precisely why they seek you out in the first place.🗺️🔍


Need support for business development and project management with Chinese pharma and nutrition clients on your pubs writing or clinical trial projects?

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