22 May 2006


"The Chinese word 'GuanXi' refers to the concept of drawing on connections in order to secure favors in personal relations. It is an intricate and pervasive relational network which Chinese cultivate energetically, subtly, and imaginatively. It contains implicit mutual obligation, assurance and understanding, and governs Chinese attitudes toward long-term social and business relationships." Guanxi: Principles, Philosophies, and Implications, Yadong, Luo, Human Systems Management, Volume 16, No 1, 1997
"GuanXi" means relationship, as simple as that.
Westerners always like to complicate matters, and try to redefine GuanXi. Thomas Lin, a PhD of the University of Southern California, make things even worse by suggesting that relationship exists at many levels, such as ongoing friendly interaction lets you skip the line in the bank, taking the bank people to lunch gets work processed faster... Shame on Mr Lin. (Please refer to http://www.marshall.usc.edu/media/review2/story.cfm?page=quanxi for the article by Lin.)
Fact is, everyone talks about relationships, and relationships do matter regardless of gender, age, and race.
Don't they talk about customer relationship management (CRM), and make it a buzzword? People are more keen to help others in need if they are connected in some ways. Simply put, people prefer to work with someone who shares common interest and speaks common language to someone who has no relationship at all. That's human nature, and it is common sense.
Westerners should not find this interesting and mysterious. It is interesting to find that Westerners find it interesting. Do they prefer not to work with Westerners? Do they prefer to work with someone who cannot speak English? If not, then why do they find the concept of GuanXi interesting?
Professor Ian Wilkinson, Deputy Head of the UNSW School of Marketing, is right in saying that "GuanXi has been overestimated." (www.unsw.edu.au/research/res/ rmpdfs/23_new_insights_chinese_business.pdf)
There is nothing mysterious about GuanXi after all.
In the movie Meet the Fockers, there is this Circle of Trust (CoT). If Gaylord Focker is in the circle, then he could have the support of Jack Byrnes, his girlfriend's father; else, he's nothing. Again, CoT is something about relationship. Even the movie from the West promotes this idea, what's so peculiar with GuanXi then?
One reason for this: GuanXi has no relationship with relationship, so it has to be alienated and treated differently on purpose.

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