Guanxi Analysis

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A Comparative Perspective: Guanxi
Guanxi is not an unchanging practice inherent in Chinese culture, but is a deeply historical and constantly evolving cultural phenomenon that has adapted to the shifting political and economic patterns of modern China (Osburg, 2013, p. 24). This section will explore the historicity of guanxi, its related cultural forms—renqing, kinship, and reciprocity—and will chart the dynamism of the affective and instrumental components of guanxi through a comparison of Gifts, Favors, and Banquets and Anxious Wealth.
A significant historical continuity evident in guanxi is its concern for renqing (human feelings). Renqing is concerned with both the bond and ethics surrounding interpersonal relations between father-son,
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Specifically, between the time of Yang’s fieldwork and Osburg’s fieldwork, the location of guanxi practice has shifted based on changing economic conditions. Dittmer (1995) discusses how the emergence of economic reforms in China have diminished the significance of guanxi in areas where consumer markets have emerged (p. 29-30). Yang later recognizes that her research for Gifts, Favors, and Banquets was in relation to the state economy of the late 1980s and that guanxi practice has declined in use for acquiring everyday provisions (Yang, 2002, p. 463). Now guanxi persists in the business sphere, which is evidenced by Osburg’s contemporary work in urban …show more content…
One prediction by Douglas Guthrie (1998) suggests a growing distinction between the cultivation of sentimental social connections and the instrumental utilization of them in the business sphere. Guthrie concludes that large-scale businesses, pushed by the increasingly “rational-legal” government of China, will inevitably abandon the use of guanxi when faced with market constraints in an increasingly competitive environment without government intervention (p. 281-282). This hopeful transition is echoed by a handful of Osburg’s informants who have felt marginalized by guanxi networks and who anticipate a “neo-liberal rapture” to diminish the importance of being well connected in business (Osburg, 2013, p. 139). Whether or not the practice of guanxi per se is diminishing is debated between Yang, Guthrie, and other scholars of guanxi. However, it is as Yang suggests: guanxi is comprised of enduring cultural patterns—renqing, kinship, and reciprocity—each of which will continuously be transformed and re-appropriated in tandem with the wider social context of modern China (Yang,

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