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Description and usage[ edit ] In a personal context[ edit ] At its most basic, guanxi describes a personal connection between two people in which one is able to prevail upon another to Family business example of central a favor or service, or be prevailed upon, that is, one's standing with another.
The two people need not be of equal social status. Guanxi can also be used to describe a network of contacts, which an individual can call upon when something needs to be done, and through which he or she can exert influence on behalf of another.
Guanxi also refers to the benefits gained from social connections and usually extends from extended family, school friends, workmates and members of common clubs or organizations.
It is customary for Chinese people to cultivate an intricate web of guanxi relationships, which may expand in a huge number of directions, and includes lifelong relationships.
Staying in contact with members of your network is not necessary to bind reciprocal obligations. Guanxi can perpetuate a never-ending cycle of favors. Guanxi is also based in concepts like loyalty, dedication, reciprocity, and trust, which help to develop non-familial interpersonal relations, while mirroring the concept of filial piety, which is used to ground familial relations.
Ultimately, the relationships formed by guanxi are personal and not transferable. Specifically, in a business context, guanxi occurs through individual interactions first before being applied on a corporate level ex.
In places in China where institutions, like the structuring of local governments and government policies, may make business interactions less efficient to facilitate, guanxi can serve as a way for businesses to circumvent such institutions by having their members cultivate their interpersonal ties.
Given its extensive influential power in the shaping of business operations, many see guanxi as a crucial source of social capital and strategic tool for business success.
Knowing this, some economists have warned that Western countries and others that trade regularly with China should improve their "cultural competency" in regards to practices such as guanxi. In doing so, such countries can avoid financial fallout caused by a lack of awareness regarding the way practices like guanxi operate.
As a result, it creates challenges for businesses whose members are obligated to repay favors to members of other businesses when they cannot sufficiently do so.
In following these obligations, businesses may also be forced to act in ways detrimental to their future, and start to over-rely on each other.
Members within a business may also start to more frequently discuss information that all members knew prior, rather than try and discuss information only known by select members. If the ties fail between two businesses within an overall network built through guanxi, the other ties comprising the overall network have a chance of failing as well.
This can result in nepotism in the work force being created through guanxi, as it is common for authoritative figures to draw from family and close ties to fill employment opportunities, instead of assessing talent and suitability as is the norm in Western societies.
This practice often prevents the most suitably qualified person being employed for the position. In addition, guanxi and nepotism are distinct in that the former is inherently a social transaction considering the emphasis on the actual act of building relationships and not purely based in financial transactions, while the latter is explicitly based in financial transactions and has a higher chance of resulting in legal consequences.
In a political context[ edit ] For relationship-based networks such as guanxi, reputation plays an important role in shaping interpersonal and political relations. As a result, the government is still the most important stakeholder, despite the nation's recent efforts to minimise government involvement.
Key government officials wield the authority to choose political associates and allies, approve projects, allocate resources, and distribute finances. Thus, it is especially crucial for international companies to develop harmonious personal relationships with government officials.
In addition to holding major legislative power, the Chinese government owns vital resources including land, banks, and major media networks and wields major influence over other stakeholders. Thus, it is important to maintain good relations with the central government in order for a business to maintain guanxi.
This is often the case when businessmen interpret guanxi's reciprocal obligations as unethical gift giving in exchange for government approval. The line drawn between ethical and unethical reciprocal obligation is unclear, but the nation currently is looking into understanding the structural problems inherent in the guanxi system.
While guanxi can bring benefits to people directly within the guanxi network, it also has the potential to bring harm to individuals, societies and nations when misused or abused. For example, mutual reciprocal obligation is a major component of guanxi. However, the specific date, time and method are often unspecified.
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