Guanxi, How China Works
Guanxi, How China Works

How do social relations, or <i>guanxi</i>, matter in China today and how can this distinctive form of personal connection be better understood? In <i>Guanxi: How China Works</i>, Yanjie Bian analyzes the forms, dynamics, and impacts of <i>guanxi</i> relations in reform-era China, and shows them to be a crucial part of the puzzle of how Chinese society operates.

Rich in original studies and insightful analyses, this concise book offers a critical synthesis of <i>guanxi</i> research, including its empirical controversies and theoretical debates. Bian skillfully illustrates the growing importance of <i>guanxi</i> in diverse areas such as personal network building, employment and labor markets, informal business relationships, and the broader political sphere, highlighting <i>guanxi</i>’s central value in China's contemporary social structure.

A definitive statement on the topic from a top authority on the sociology of <i>guanxi</i>, this book is an excellent classroom introduction for courses on China, a useful reference for <i>guanxi</i> researchers, and ideal reading for anyone interested in Chinese culture and society.

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  • January 2019
  • 200 pages
  • 155 x 214 mm / 6 x 8 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $64.95
  • 9781509500383
  • Paperback $22.95
  • 9781509500390
  • Open eBook $18.00
  • 9781509500420
Table of Contents

Map x

Chronology xi

Preface xiv

1 What is Guanxi? 1

Guanxi in Everyday Chinese Life 2

Guanxi as Local Knowledge 7

Theoretical Models of Guanxi in the Social Sciences 12

A SNA Approach toward Guanxi 19

Guanxi as Resource Mobilizer: A Concluding Note 25

2 Guanxi and Network Building 28

Guanxi Interaction as an Everyday Phenomenon 28

Guanxi Cultivation and Expansion through Banquets 38

Guanxi Exchanges at Events of Cultural Significance 47

Guanxi Networks and Social Class 54

A Concluding Note: Rural-Urban Differences 62

3 Guanxi and Jobs 66

The Maoist Era 67

The Post-Mao Era 72

The Dynamics of Guanxi 77

Empirical Evidence from Large-Scale Social Surveys 82

Summary 99

4 Guanxi and Business Founding 102

China's Business World: An Overview 102

Guanxi as Mechanisms of Self-Employment 107

Guanxi as Mechanisms of Business Founding 115

Entrepreneur Networks in Business Founding and Later Success 121

5 Guanxi and Organizational Development 128

Theoretical Perspectives on Guanxi-Organization Relations 128

Guanxi as Mechanisms of Organizational Governance 141

Guanxi as Mechanisms of Organizational Performance 154

Foreign Organizations in Guanxi Culture 161

6 Guanxi and Politics 168

Nepotism and Guanxi Networks in a Local Government 168

Guanxi Favoritism and the Politics of Promotion 176

Guanxi Favoritism in the Politicized Legal System 191

7 Guanxi and Social Structure 202

The Internal and External Logics of Guanxi 202

Guanxi Networks and Social Structure 207

Guanxi Networks as Social Structure 212

A Research Agenda 218

Bibliography 223

Chinese-Language References 242

Index 246

About the Author

Yanjie Bian is Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota and Xi’an Jiaotong University

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“Yanjie Bian is the pre-eminent scholar on social networks and guanxi in China and this monograph is the benchmark of his theoretical and methodological analysis of guanxi and its global implications. A must-read for scholars and students on social networks everywhere.”
Nan Lin, Duke University

“Combining deep knowledge of Chinese culture with expertise in global network theory, Professor Yanjie Bian offers the definitive book on guanxi– the interpersonal connections through which personal achievement happens in China, and often (by other names) in the West.”
Ronald S. Burt, University of Chicago

“[This] book provides valuable information regarding the complicated and myriad ways in which Chinese society functions and how this actually affects the politics and economics of society.”
Asian Affairs

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