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Traditional Chinese: 關係
Simplified Chinese: 关系

''Guānxi'' describes the basic dynamic in the complex nature of personalized networks of influence and social relationships, and is a central concept in Chinese society. In Western media, the pinyin romanization of this Chinese word is becoming more widely used instead of the two common translations—"connections" and "relationships"—as neither of those terms sufficiently reflect the wide cultural implications that guānxi describes.

Closely related concepts include that of gǎnqíng, a measure which reflects the depth of feeling within an interpersonal relationship, rénqíng, the moral obligation to maintain the relationship, and "face", divided into the concepts of "mian" (or "mianzi") meaning social status and prestige, and liǎn, the idea of being perceived as a morally correct actor within society.


[edit] Description

At its most basic, guānxi describes a personal connection between two people in which one is able to prevail upon another to perform a favor or service, or be prevailed upon. The two people need not to be of equal social status. Guānxi can also be used to describe a network of contacts, which an individual can call upon when something needs to be done, and through which he or she can exert influence on behalf of another. In addition, guānxi can describe a state of general understanding between two people: "he/she is aware of my wants/needs and will take them into account when deciding her/his course of future actions which concern or could concern me without any specific discussion or request".

The term is not generally used to describe relationships within a family, although guānxi obligations can sometimes be described in terms of an extended family. The term is also not generally used to describe relationships that fall within other well-defined societal norms (e.g. boss-worker, teacher-student, friendship). The relationships formed by guānxi are personal and not transferable.

When a guānxi network violates bureaucratic norms, it can lead to corruption, and guānxi can also form the basis of patron-client relations.

[edit] Usage examples

Someone is described as having good guānxi if their particular network of influence could assist in the resolution of the problem currently being spoken about.

The most common response to indicate acceptance of an apology in Standard Mandarin is méi(yǒu) guānxi (沒(有)關係/没(有)关系) which literally translated means "doesn't have guānxi [implications]". A similar expression in English would be "I won't hold it against you."

Guānxi is most often used in the press when guānxi obligations take precedence over civic duties, leading to nepotism and cronyism [1] [2].

[edit] Similar concepts in other cultures

Sociologists have linked guanxi with the concept of social capital (it has been described as a Gemeinschaft value structure), and it has been exhaustively described in studies of Chinese economic and political behavior, including those listed below.

In Middle Eastern culture, wasta is a similar concept; in Italy, raccomandato and raccomandazione are similar concepts.

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