, Volume 107, Issue 4, pp 533-545

Firm Networking and Bribery in China: Assessing Some Potential Negative Consequences of Firm Openness

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Abstract

Economic openness, both in terms of increased international trade exposure and enhanced inter-firm networking, has been a key element of China’s economic emergence since the implementation of market reforms and the “opening-up policy” over 30 years ago. Unfortunately, these changes have also coincided with the increased incidence of bribery and corruption. Both in general, and in the specific context of China, research on the relationship between a firm’s tendency toward openness and its propensity to engage in bribery is scarce. This study seeks to fill this gap based on empirical evidence provided by a large sample of Chinese firms. The findings of the study reveal that firms’ increased networking and openness tend to occur contemporaneously with greater bribery and corruption. We suggest that this may be due to the misuse of guanxi-based networks that coincide with the presence of firms’ open network strategies, heightened by the potential loss of resource and capability heterogeneity (and hence reduced competitive advantages) in the context of openness. We further find that firms paying bribes do so as an attempt to overcome unnecessary bureaucratic processes and ineffective institutional support that might tend to hinder their development.