Business practices in China are no different than any other place in the world, they are done by people. So it is the mentality of the people that makes business practices different from market to market.
It is only 30 years ago when China implemented the “Reform and Open Up” policy, so that market economics would gradually replace the planned economics that were enforced in China for many decades. With no established guidelines and references in how business should be conducted, all first generation business peoples are doing their best based on only what they know and what they can do. If you have the chance to observe the traffic at any of China's major city’s intersection, you will see that majority of the first generation drivers are ignoring the traffic rules, public safety laws and disturbing social order just to get to their final destination faster and easier. With that in mind, it's not strange if you found that the business you are in is indeed quite, “unique and special”.
During the many years of implemented planned economics, China encountered many major events that change people’s mentalities. This had nothing to do with good or bad, kindness or evil, it just a way of thinking and behaving. On some occasions people tended to say one thing and do the other. This does not make them a bad guy, just a way to survive during the hardship in the past.
So you need to fully understand the situation you are in, and knowing how to communicate with your counterpart to determine your best approach. Jump at the right time, at the right height, and at the right cost is the best way to succeed in doing business in China.