Guanxi: Personal connections in Chinese society

Abstract

Guanxi is known to be an important feature of Chinese society, and while studies of the subject are voluminous, the present study attempts to explore two critical aspects that tend to be neglected. First, previous studies have mostly dealt with guanxi in business activities, but we analyze the meanings of guanxi in the context of ordinary people. More importantly, even though guanxi has routinely been attributed to Confucianism, it begs the more fundamental question of why Chinese society has developed Confucianism and why the latter has become the dominant ideology over the centuries. We provide a plausible account of this important question from both sociological and economic perspectives. Secondly, we illustrate the general implications of guanxi in Chinese society, in particular relating guanxi to the development of democracy and of the rule of law. Consequently, its significance in Chinese society is actually more important than what has been suggested in the literature. Finally, we present some preliminary empirical evidence, based on survey results, of the importance of guanxi in contemporary Chinese society.

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Correspondence to Bingyuan Hsiung.

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Hsiung, B. Guanxi: Personal connections in Chinese society. J Bioecon 15, 17–40 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10818-011-9118-9

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Keywords

  • Guanxi
  • Tools
  • Familial relations-guanxi nexus
  • Five cardinal virtues

JEL Classification

  • O53
  • O29
  • P49