Is the Importance of Guanxi in China Today Diminishing or Evolving?

Relationship, Connection

Dave Freeman(Co-founder, Head Trainer at OrientalXpress): It seems to me that its still extremely important inChina. TheU.S. is funny about Guanxi. It’s much more important in the South than it is in the North. Out west its not as cut and dry. Great topic of discussion.

Daniel Stepel(Consultant at Sharpening Axes): I personally have seen no decreases in the importance of Guanxi from 2001 when I first came to China and today. I would say that it is far easier to build up Guanxi as a western today than it once was.

HOMAS AW(Mentor & Advisor at CONNECT Nature & Life with Compassion): As an overseas Chinese, you may not know that CHINA is NOT immature, there are many hidden dragons and waiting tigers maneuvers, out of public knowledge or general understanding.

In the 5000 years of rich historic cultures, Chinese people have overcome many difficulties and achieved many: World Class achievements.

Looking back in the history records, you will see many periods of strict Laws and application by Chinese citizens, EVEN in ancient eras. So, this area is totally NOT alien to the Chinese culture, see Confucian teachings and the discipline in Chinese communities – Worldwide.

In various blips of different mode of authorities, there are hic-ups to be expected, even in Western civilizations, can we deny it ?

The Global Chinese people are equipped with 5000 years of knowledge and business management skills, why you witnessed the phenomenon GDP Growth in the past 30 years, not so SIMPLE. * Given the same challenge, many countries cannot reach this pace of maturity, of Modern China.

Be Proud of yourself and your Ancestors’ intelligent DNA. Regardless, of your perception of any current traffic jams / inconvenience along the route to more development in prosperousChina. ( * Don’t Think an immature Nation can make a trade surplus, with the Wisdom to SAVE it, for the next few generations’ benefits and growth )

Dennis Ang(Property Development at Western   Australia): Having lived in the western world for more than 20 years now, the ‘guanxi’ concept or perhaps is our culture because it was brought down (thought) to us by our parents is difficult to ‘experience’ by the West. My experience with the new generation of Asians origin but born and grow up in Aust shows mix experience about ‘guanxi’ depending on their brought up by their parents. The understanding of ‘guanxi’ concept and its application in the ‘business’ and ‘personal’ context is very different among the Chinese from Msia,Spore,Indonesia,China,Thailand and Vietnamese or others. I believe the concept will still be discussed in the years to come and may never stop. It will continue to generate interest in research. Bro Henry’s sharing of the link definite brought some light about the concept. To quote from the article, Mr Lee said: “Singapore is a small country, we cannot presume to teach other countries. If the Chinese are interested in certain aspects of howSingapore does things and request that we show them, of course we will do that, but we are a small country and would not have the audacity to instruct.”

This is culture. The West are unlikely to word it this way. I believe the overseas Chinese should be able to pickup quickly the ‘guanxi’ concept practice inChina.

Guanxi exists everywhere in the world

“The reliance on “guanxi” in the Chinese culture means that there is room around laws [the jurisprudence of adaptive ‘psychological contracts’] – Alan Chen

“The formal, rational, ‘legitimate’ plans and programmes in most organizations might well be developed by a managerial elite, but what actually happens – emerges from the ‘organization-wide’ interplay of the multitude of local conversations and interactions[… ] These conversations, most of which occur in the ‘shadows’ of the formal structures, systems and processes, are self-organizing. In other words, organizations are dynamic networks of self-organizing conversations” – Chris Rodgers [Guanxi as] ‘Informal Coalitions’.

“Guanxi through LinkedIn connections, Baido, Twitter, etc are doing their share of expansion and access toChinabusiness.” – Thomas Aw.

“Guanxi, an ever-evolving idea. Everybody can be making a difference to how it works” – Yi Lu.

To engage (and negotiate) with the Chinese from an Occidental (Western) perspective you must understand the Confucian approach to the “Power of Alliances” – the Psychological Contracts in the subtexts of those alliances and the internationalities, reciprocities, mutualities and the ‘implied’ contractual expectancies embedded in the practice of Guanxi. (Guanxi essentially describes the basic dynamic in personalized networks of influence, and is a central idea in Chinese society – Although guanxi is associated with the traditional Confucianism doctrine, guanxi ties were strongly developed during the Mao regime (1949–1976), particularly due to the work-unit (danwei) system, which led many workers to construct strong social networks within their units, thus improving their ability to enjoy important resources and privileges).

I am speaking as a Brit and the way I engage with the Chinese is to use Game Theory and Decision Tree modelling techniques – ‘Here are the range of choices you could make and here the decisions you could choose to take and these implications and the outcomes of your choices and decisions – so what do you want to do? There are always choices’ – and they say “Ah yes, but you are a free-wheeling Anglo-Saxon – how do we know we can trust you? (guanxi)” – “Does that matter – it all comes down to the choices you make and the implications of those choices – this is absolutely transactional – perceived ‘and’ achieved mutual competitive advantage creates relationship – it creates guanxi…”.

Les Gee(Neophyte at Ooospace): Guanxi (关系), what a term.

In general it depicts connections or relationship to the west. If someone wants to improve a connections or relationship, it is called “gao guanxi” (搞关系). If he has a good connections or relationship, he has a “hao guanxi” (好关系). If he seeks connections or relationship, “zhao guanxi” (找关系).

If someone says “you guanxi” 有关系, it could mean he has the connections or relationship, but it also means “relevant to the matter”.

If someone doesn’t have the connections or relationship it would be “没有关系” but it also means “don’t matter”.

Confused yet?

Guanxi, IMHO, has a overtone of camaraderie which exceeds ordinary friendship.

Many people confused agreeableness with guanxi, hence may get disappointed. I believe to what Helen Yang referred was more agreeableness with government officials than guanxi, whereby there is a cultural barrier which requires a long time to erode and trust to be established.

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