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  1. Understanding the concept of ‘guanxi’
  2. Chinese Guanxi and Business Ethics | SpringerLink
  3. BBC News Navigation

This refers to having personal trust and a strong relationship with someone, and can involve moral obligations and exchanging favours.

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John Russell, Director of North Head consultancy, says guanxi is the key driver in Chinese business culture and relationships. An understanding of those relationships is necessary for success, but increasingly with economic reform and changes in China guanxi is no longer sufficient for success.

Understanding the concept of ‘guanxi’

It is important to build business relationships with partners that are open to fresh thinking and new ideas. Whether they are agents, distributors, or other partners, they must have enough experience in the local industry and familiarity with differences in local consumer and industry segments to see how to carry through with new ideas.

Above all, your business partner must possess resources and relationships that complement yours. But alliances come with their risks. Trust and regular communication through the relationship cycle are essential and the need for practising due diligence cannot be emphasised enough.

Chinese Guanxi and Business Ethics | SpringerLink

A common reason for failure among Australian businesses in China comes from their lack of understanding of their Chinese business partners. Some Australian businesses have failed to be proactive in developing and maintaining a relationship with a Chinese business partner. Confucianism, the dominant cultural belief, emphasized the interdependence of social connections. Business and societal relationships relied more heavily on networks of trust and mutual obligations than on strong, codified laws.

Thirty days before relocating to China, Bill studied this in a two-day cross-cultural course: Keys to Doing Business in China. The speaker, using powerful anecdotes, focused on a concept that embodied this dynamic in Chinese society: Guanxi. Guanxi loosely translates as personal connections, relationships or social networks. It implies trust and mutual obligations between parties, and it operates on personal, familial, social, business and political levels. For example: If our guanxi is good, it implies we get along and are likely or expected to help each other out, perhaps because of shared ties, history or having done favors in the past.

Those behind it help each other.

Case Study: ManageChina

Bill was fascinated with the analogy, and with guanxi. This was the first sign his problems were just starting. Bill become determined to pay close attention to cross-cultural nuances, specifically guanxi. He signed distributors that appeared to have good guanxi with key customers. He selected consultants that emphasized their guanxi with government agencies and local regulatory authorities.

He worked to establish guanxi with his Chinese employees. Paying attention to guanxi was not a bad move by Bill — but it was his singular focus on it that sunk him. Their study put guanxi in context, something Bill, and countless western executives, fail to do.

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  6. For the past twenty years, academics have spent considerable time trying to discern the impact of guanxi on business results. The paper stopped short of stating that guanxi causes business success in China, and it raised more questions than answers about the role that networks play in China business. Aside from the rigorous data and analysis, what was particularly noteworthy about the research was that it compared the impact of networks in China versus their impact in the West.

    That is what the study in China concluded: networks are associated with business success in the West and China.

    Trust correlates in the West are also correlated in China. Look at the US and Western Europe. Consultants with ties to regulatory agencies can often better navigate or even shape government policy. Surprise: Guanxi exists everywhere, including the West. To improve his business results, Bill would have been better served by understanding three aspects of guanxi in China:.

    BBC News Navigation

    Thoughtful investors in China get scared if guanxi is a company's sole competitive advantage, or even business model. The importance of guanxi is relative and depends heavily on industry, geography or the nature of the business. Good guanxi with authorities or state-owned companies may be critical to successfully doing business. Likewise, China is diverse.