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Guanxi: Personal connections in Chinese society


  • Bingyuan Hsiung



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. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Bingyuan Hsiung, 2013. "Guanxi: Personal connections in Chinese society," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 17-40, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbioec:v:15:y:2013:i:1:p:17-40
    DOI: 10.1007/s10818-011-9118-9

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Timur Kuran, 2004. "The Economic Ascent of the Middle East’s Religious Minorities: The Role of Islamic Legal Pluralism," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 475-515, June.
    2. Fan, Ying, 2002. "Questioning guanxi: definition, classification and implications," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(5), pages 543-561, October.
    3. Coase, R. H., 1990. "The Firm, the Market, and the Law," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, number 9780226111018.
    4. Mark Granovetter, 2005. "The Impact of Social Structure on Economic Outcomes," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 33-50, Winter.
    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:87:y:1993:i:03:p:567-576_10 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:ris:utmsje:0208 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Jae Hyeung Kang & James G. Matusik & Lizabeth A. Barclay, 2017. "Affective and Normative Motives to Work Overtime in Asian Organizations: Four Cultural Orientations from Confucian Ethics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 140(1), pages 115-130, January.
    3. Liu, Qigui & Luo, Jinbo & Tian, Gary Gang, 2016. "Managerial professional connections versus political connections: Evidence from firms' access to informal financing resources," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 179-200.

    More about this item


    Guanxi ; Tools; Familial relations-guanxi nexus; Five cardinal virtues; O53; O29; P49;

    JEL classification:

    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O29 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Other
    • P49 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Other


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