If they didn't bribe them directly they would have just payed a large amount of money to a lobbying firm to bribe them on their behalf.
Lets be honest most big business cares only about the bottom line. Those who care about ethics will have less profits and either be swallowed by their competition, or have management replaced by investors wanting the same higher profits as the competitors.
Until you have either enough supervision and bite worldwide to make such not worth it, or a public who is willing to boycott such companies into the ground this will keep happening. Also since global corporations have a higher gdp than any country, and would retaliate against what threatens their bottom line, having either of the previously mentioned be maintained is a fools dream.
Bribery is always unethical, but they bribed them big time! They gained a huge edge on competitors by doing this, but it wasn't because their products were great, it was because they offered gucci bags, tiffany pens and other luxury items so they could sell directly to people. Sounds fishy and unethical to me.
Avon Industries was completely unethical by bribing Chinese officials with gifts. As a fixture of Americana, Avon Industries should be setting and upholding the standard of ethical practices, not stooping to bribing Chinese officials to move their own interests forward. Greed is a most unfortunate ingredient to mix with any type of business.
Bribing someone is always unethical and someone who will take a bribe is untrustworthy. Bribing undermines the process business must go through. Anything gotten through bribes will fall apart when what has been done comes to light. If you can not be honest in your dealings, how can your customers trust your brand?
Avon were trying to circumvent Chinese licensing bans by paying bribes and giving gifts to officials. The Chinese contract would have been incredibly lucrative and the rules set in place by the Chinese authorities were dogmatically bureaucratic. It is also the case that in China, bribery and gift giving is much more common than it is in the West and it is an almost acceptable way of conducting business.