October 1998, Vol 7, Issue 3

Guanxi: only for Chinese

Mr Woo Ka-shing, Lecturer of the School of Business and Administration

Since the Open Door policy in the late 1970s, more and more for- eigners have been into China to do business. The problems encountered by westerners in finding 'the proper ways' to approach the Chinese market indicated the presence of fundamental differences in business practice between the East and the West. In particular, it was discovered that the existence of guanxi (good connections) was of paramount importance in marketing goods and services to the Chinese community. Research on guanxi has since proliferated.

Building on more than two decades of research on guanxi by many Hong Kong and overseas researchers, Mr Woo Ka-shing, Lecturer in Marketing and International Business from the School of Business and Administration, has teamed up with Mr Yeung Ping-kwong, Assistant Professor in Management, to undertake a study on the relationship between guanxi and Chinese culture. As revealed by existing literature, the concept of guanxi is related to a number of Chinese social behavioural patterns, for example, xinren (trust), mianzi ('face'), and renqing (exchange of favours).

'Existing research on guanxi focuses on two main areas. One tries to compare the concept of relationship in Eastern and Western perspectives, and the other stresses the importance of guanxi and the strategies for managing it in the Chinese community. We would like to extend existing research works that the practice of guanxi is deeply rooted in the Chinese culture,' Mr Woo said.

'In our research plan, we would try to establish a specific link between guanxi and the Chinese culture using the Hofstede and Bond's five cultural dimensions as a framework (i.e. power distance, uncertainty avoidance, collectivism, femininity, and long-term orientation). Up to now, their study is the most extensive examination of cross-cultural values involving more than 40 countries. We hope that the results of the study would help management executives understand more about the guanxi practice from a cultural perspective and find the best approaches in dealing with the Chinese in different business situations.'

Copyright (C) The Open University of Hong Kong, 1998