The crucial importance of Guanxi

One of the many aspects of the Chinese culture is the Guanxi, which we already mentioned in other posts.

Guanxi is one of those foreign words that are simply impossible to really translate into English. It comes from two Chinese characters: Guan, meaning a gate or hurdle, and Xi, meaning a tie, connection or relationship. So “guanxi” can be translated into English as “Pass the hurdle and get connected”. In the books about China and their business etiquette guides, it’s typically seen as the Western concept of networking, but Guanxi is far more pervasive in China than networking is in Western countries.

I like the definition in the following article @Kevin D. Aslan, Entrepreneur, Author, Podcaster :

“A better name for guanxi would be “Network Capital”.

Essentially, guanxi is the amount of influence you might have with someone. You build up guanxi by doing favours for someone, but you use up guanxi by asking for favours back. When someone helps you out, it diminishes the guanxi you’ve accumulated with this person. …. Ideally, when there is a sufficient amount of favours exchanged, guanxi no longer begins to diminish when things are asked for: simply because the long relationship has established a strong guanxi base.

It’s a defining element of Chinese culture that is representative of the way they do business as a whole – and saying that ‘guanxi’ is like ‘network’ is as fatal a mistake as saying that ‘Alibaba’ is like ‘Amazon’. They might look similar, but there are strong, core differences between the two.”


Therefore one shouldn’t neglect this aspect while doing business in China or with Chinese, or else it will be almost impossible to try anything. This has been confirmed by non-Chinese entrepreneurs and foreign official agencies.

© NEOMA BS EMBA – Ernest Shackleton Cohort Communication Group (IIP) – 2017


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