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From tradition to modern: attitudes and applications of guanxi in Chinese entrepreneurship.

Anderson, Alistair R.; Lee, Edward Yiu-chung


Alistair R. Anderson

Edward Yiu-chung Lee


Purpose - This article aims to examine one aspect of Chinese culture, guanxi. Guanxi, "special relationships" has long been employed to facilitate business in China. The authors ask whether this is likely to continue in the rapidly changing environment. China's long history of insularity has created a culture and business environment considered to be uniquely based on Confucian values. Yet in the last couple of decades China has opened its doors to globalisation. These forces, in conjunction with what many see as Confucian dynamism of Chinese entrepreneurship, have generated economic growth levels in excess of 11 per cent per annum. This blending of the old and the new raises questions about how practices may be changing. Design/methodology/approach - The authors employed a survey of two groups; middle managers in Hong Kong and young middle class in mainland China. These groups represent the modern, Hong Kong as westernised; the old, but with new perspectives, the affluent middle classes of present day China. Open-ended questions about perceptions of understanding and use of guanxi were asked. Findings - The research finds many contrasts between the respondent groups. The Hong Kong respondents did not really understand guanxi, but still thought it important in China. The mainland group both understood and used guanxi, but similarly to the Hong Kong group, did not like it or enjoy its use. Both groups saw a diminishing application of guanxi as China's regulatory and market environment improves. Originality/value - The paper establishes that guanxi persists and may remain essential in China. However guanxi will work in conjunction with markets and regulations, rather than as a replacement.


ANDERSON, A.R. and LEE, E. Y-C. 2008. From tradition to modern: attitudes and applications of guanxi in Chinese entrepreneurship. Journal of small business and enterprise development [online], 15(4), pages 775-787. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 24, 2008
Online Publication Date Oct 24, 2008
Publication Date Dec 31, 2008
Deposit Date Apr 30, 2014
Publicly Available Date Apr 30, 2014
Journal Journal of small business and enterprise development
Print ISSN 1462-6004
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Issue 4
Pages 775-787
Keywords China; Chinese people; Entrepreneurs; Interpersonal relations; National cultures; Chinese entrepreneurs; Guanxi; Culture and change
Public URL


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