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Reconceptualizing and Redirecting Research on Guanxi: ‘Guan-Xi’ Interaction to Form a Multicolored Chinese Knot

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 August 2019

Peter Ping Li
University of Nottingham Ningbo China, China Center for Creative Leadership, USA Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Steven Shijin Zhou
University of Nottingham Ningbo China, China
Abby Jingzi Zhou
University of Nottingham Ningbo China, China
Zhangbo Yang*
Xi'an Jiaotong University, China
Corresponding author: Zhangbo Yang (


Guanxi is one of the most popular topics in Chinese and Western scholarship concerning social ties in China. However, several problems in research on guanxi persist, and multiple debates are still ongoing without much consensus in sight. This study has two goals. First, we offer a systematic review of the current literature on guanxi, especially by differentiating guan dyads from xi networks. This reconceptualization of guanxi enables us to clarify the concept of guanxi by differentiating its two dimensions. Second, based on this literature review, we propose a redirection of future research on guanxi such that guan dyads and xi networks are not examined in isolation; rather, their holistic and dynamic interaction is the most fruitful avenue for future research, especially the four mechanisms of their interaction. The proposed reconceptualization and redirection are our two contributions to the literature.


“关系” (guanxi) 是中西方学者最关心的话题之一。然而,“关系”研究尚有许多问题亟待解答。本研究聚焦两个研究目的:首先,我们从双边联结视角(dyadic tie, 即“关”视角)和多边网络视角(social network, 即“系”视角)系统回顾已有的“关系”研究。“关系”概念的重构帮助我们从两个不同维度厘清“关系”的内在逻辑。其次,根据文献回顾的结果,我们提出未来“关系” 的研究方向,即不应孤立地研究双边联结与多边网络,而应聚焦于“关”与“系”二者之间整体性与动态性交互,尤其是本文提出的四个核心互动机制。这正是本研究的两大贡献。


Guanxi является одним из самых популярных вопросов в китайских и западных исследованиях, которые посвящены социальным отношениям в Китае. Тем не менее, некоторые проблемы в исследованиях по guanxi сохраняются, и многочисленные дебаты все еще продолжаются без особой надежды на достижение согласия. Данная работа ставит перед собой две цели. Во-первых, мы предлагаем систематический обзор существующей литературы по guanxi, на основании различия между guan диадами и xi связями. Это переосмысление концепции guanxi позволяет нам прояснить понятие guanxi и выделить два аспекта этого понятия. Во-вторых, на основании обзора литературы, мы предлагаем новое направление для будущих исследований guanxi с той целью, чтобы guan диады и xi связи не рассматривались по отдельности; напротив, изучение их целостного и динамичного взаимодействия является наиболее плодотворным направлением для будущих исследований, в особенности изучение четырех механизмов их взаимодействия. Переосмысление концепции и новое направление для исследований – два наших вклада в научную литературу.


El guanxi es uno de los temas más comunes en la academia China y Occidental con relación a los lazos sociales en China. Sin embargo, muchos problemas en la investigación sobre guanxi persistente, y múltiples debates aún continúan sin mucho consenso a la vista. Este estudio tiene dos metas. Primero, ofrecemos una revisión sistemática de la actual literatura sobre guanxi, especialmente al diferenciar las diadas guan de las redes xi. Esta re-conceptualización de guanxi nos permite clarificar el concepto de guanxi al diferenciar sus dos dimensiones. Segundo, con base en esta revisión de literatura, proponemos una re-dirección de la investigación futura sobre guanxi como que las diadas guan y las redes xi no son examinadas de manera aislada; más bien, su interacción holística y dinámica es la avenida más fructífera para la investigación futura, especialmente los cuatro mecanismos de contribuciones a la literatura. La re-conceptualización y la re-dirección propuesta son nuestras dos contribuciones a la literatura.

Copyright © The International Association for Chinese Management Research 2019 

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Accepted by: Editor-in-Chief Arie Y. Lewin



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