Purpose - This paper aims to add a cultural-relational dimension to the supply chain risk management (SCRM) literature. Design/methodology/approach - Inter-firm learning and cultural adaptation literatures are reviewed, missing themes identified and a conceptual model proposed. Findings - The authors define the problem of supply chain relational risk (SCRR) and explain the cultural differences between China and the West, which form a subset of SCRR. They then propose cultural adaptation as the solution to this problem. Two missing themes are identified concerning the process of cultural adaptation between China and the West and the causal relationship between cultural adaptation and partnership performance. Research limitations/implications - This is a conceptual paper based on secondary data. Practical implications - Cultural differences between China and the West impact the relational risks facing Western buyers and their Chinese suppliers. To create a mutually beneficial partnership, it is necessary for both parties to understand the cultural differences and the process of cultural adaptation. ultimately, the paper will help firms mitigate the relational risks associated with cultural differences. Originality/value - The paper extends prior work in the area of SCRM by adding a relational-cultural dimension. With a view to mitigation of SCRRs, the authors develop a conceptual process model, which describes a relationship-building process incorporating cultural adaptation for the creation of a mutually beneficial partnership, which features a hybrid cultural interface.