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Social Connections in China
Institutions, Culture,andthe Changing
Nature ofGuanxi
Editedby
ThomasGold
UniversityofCalifornia,Berkeley
DougGuthrie
NewYorkUniversity
DavidWank
SophiaUniversity
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published bythepresssyndicateoftheuniversityofcambridge
ThePittBuilding,TrumpingtonStreet,Cambridge,UnitedKingdom
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CambridgeUniversityPress2002
Thisbookisincopyright.Subjecttostatutoryexception
andtotheprovisionsofrelevantcollectivelicensingagreements,
noreproductionofanypartmaytakeplacewithout
thewrittenpermissionofCambridgeUniversityPress.
Firstpublished2002
PrintedintheUnitedKingdomattheUniversityPress,Cambridge
TypefaceTimesRoman10/12pt.
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AcatalogrecordforthisbookisavailablefromtheBritishLibrary.
LibraryofCongressCataloginginPublicationData
SocialconnectionsinChina:institutions,culture,andthechangingnatureof
Guanxi/editedbyThomasGold,DougGuthrie,DavidWank.
p. cm.–(Structuralanalysisinthesocialsciences;21)
Includesbibliographicalreferencesandindex.
ISBN0-521-81233-X
I.Title:Institutions,culture,andthechangingnatureofGuanxi.
II.Gold,Thomas,1948– III.Guthrie,Doug,1969–
IV.Wank,DavidL.,1957– V.Series.
HN740.G825S63 2002
306.095128–dc21
2001037922
ISBN052181233Xhardback
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CONTENTS
Contributors
pageix
ListofFiguresandTables
xiii
Prologue
xv
Introduction
AnIntroductiontotheStudyofGuanxi
ThomasGold,
DougGuthrie,andDavidWank
3
1 PracticesofGuanxiProductionandPracticesof
GanqingAvoidance
AndrewKipnis
21
MethodologicalandConceptualConsiderations
2 InformationAsymmetriesandtheProblemofPerception:
TheSignificanceofStructuralPositioninAssessing
theImportanceofGuanxiinChina
DougGuthrie
37
3 BeyondDyadicSocialExchange:GuanxiandThird-Party
Effects
Yi-minLin
57
NewSubstantiveStudiesofGuanxi
4 GuanxiinBusinessGroups:SocialTiesandtheFormation
ofEconomicRelations
LisaA.Keister
77
5 Business-StateClientelisminChina:
DeclineorEvolution?
DavidWank
97
6 InstitutionalHolesandJobMobilityProcesses:Guanxi
MechanismsinChina’sEmergentLaborMarkets
YanjieBian
117
7 YouthJobSearchesinUrbanChina:TheUseofSocial
ConnectionsinaChangingLaborMarket
AmyHanser
137
8 Face,Norms,andInstrumentality
ScottWilson
163
9 GuanxiandthePRCLegalSystem:FromContradictionto
Complementarity
PitmanB.Potter
179
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viii
Contents
10 “IdleTalk”:NeighborhoodGossipasaMediumofSocial
CommunicationinReformEraShanghai
JamesFarrer
197
Conclusions
11 NetworkingGuanxi
BarryWellman,WenhongChen,
andDongWeizhen
221
References
243
Index
273
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CONTRIBUTORS
YanjieBian:AssociateProfessorofSociologyattheUniversityofMinnesotaand
AssociateProfessorofSocialScienceandDirectoroftheSurveyResearchCenter
atHongKongUniversityofScienceandTechnology.HeistheauthorofWorkand
InequalityinUrbanChina(SUNYPress,1994)andco-editorofMarketTransition
andSocialStratification(Beijing:JointPublishingCo,2000,withHanlongLuand
LipingSun)andSurveyResearchinChineseSocieties(OxfordUniversityPress
[HK],2001,withEdwardTuandAlvinSo).Heistheauthorofnumerousarticles
onthesubjectofguanxiandiscurrentlyextendinghisresearchonsocialcapital,
guanxinetworks,andemploymentprocessesinChinesecities.
Wenhong Chen: Graduate student in the Department of Sociology at the
UniversityofToronto.ShereceivedherBAineconomicsfromtheUniversityof
InternationalBusinessandInternationalEconomics,Beijing,andhasalsostudied
sociologyattheUniversityofMunich.Herresearchinterestsincludesocialstrati-
ficationandsocialchange.Sheiscurrentlystudyingtheglobaldigitaldivideand
theevolutionoftheneweconomyinChinaandEurope.
JamesFarrer:LecturerinSociologyintheFacultyofComparativeCultureof
SophiaUniversityinTokyo.HeisauthorofOpeningUp:Sex,LoveandMoneyin
Shanghai,forthcomingfromtheUniversityofChicagoPress.
Thomas Gold: Member of the Sociology Department of the University of
California, Berkeley; Executive Director of the Inter-University Program for
ChineseLanguageStudies;andformerChair ofBerkeley’sCenterforChinese
Studies(1990–4and1998).HeistheauthorofStateandSocietyintheTaiwan
Miracle(1986)andtheforthcomingCambridgebookRemakingTaiwan:Society
andtheStatesincetheEndofMartialLaw.Healsowrote“AfterComradeship:
PersonalRelations inChina after the CulturalRevolution” (China Quarterly,
1985),amongmanyother articlesonTaiwan’s politicaleconomyandongoing
democratization,aswellasonprivatebusinessinmainlandChina.
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x
Notesoncontributors
DougGuthrie:AssociateProfessorofSociologyatNewYorkUniversity.He
istheauthorofDragoninaThree-PieceSuit:TheEmergenceofCapitalismin
China(Princeton,1999),aswellasseveralarticlesontheeconomicreformsin
China, including“TheDecliningSignificanceofGuanxiinChina’sEconomic
Transition”(The ChinaQuarterly, 1998).Hiscurrentresearchfocuses onthe
relationshipbetweeneconomicandpoliticalchangeinChina.
AmyHanser:DoctoralcandidateintheDepartmentofSociologyattheUniversity
ofCalifornia,Berkeley.Sheiscurrentlywritingadissertationonservicesector
employmentinChina’snortheast.
LisaA.Keister:AssistantProfessorofSociologyattheOhioStateUniversity.She
receivedherPhDfromCornellUniversityin1997andconductsresearchineco-
nomicsociology,inequality,andorganizationalbehavior.Sheistherecipientof
theNationalScienceFoundation’sFacultyEarlyDevelopmentCareerAwardand
authorofthebooksChineseBusinessGroups(Oxford,2000)andWealthinAmerica
(Cambridge,2000).
Andrew Kipnis: Research Fellowin the Contemporary China Center of the
AustralianNationalUniversity.Heisauthorof ProducingGuanxi:Sentiment,
Self,andSubcultureinaNorthChinaVillage.Heiscurrentlydoingresearchon
educationreformasasocioculturalprocessinEastAsiaandwritingabookabout
socioculturaltheoryinthepost-socialistera.
Yi-minLin:TeachesattheSocialScienceDivision,HongKongUniversityof
ScienceandTechnology.HeistheauthorofBetweenPoliticsandMarkets:Firms,
Competition,andInstitutionalChangeinPost-MaoChina(Cambridge,2001).
PitmanB.Potter:DirectoroftheInstituteofAsianResearchattheUniversityof
BritishColumbia. HeisalsoProfessor of LawandDirector ofChineseLegal
Studies atUBC’s FacultyofLaw.Dr.Potter’s teachingandresearchactivities
focusonlawandlegalcultureinthePRCandTaiwan.
DavidWank:AssociateProfessorofSociologyatSophiaUniversity,Tokyo.Heis
theauthorofCommodifyingCommunism:BusinessTrustandPoliticsinaChinese
City(Cambridge,1999)andiscurrentlyresearchingtheinstitutionalpoliticsof
China’sBuddhistresurgence.
DongWeizhen: PhDcandidateattheDepartmentofSociology,Universityof
Toronto.ShereceivedherMAinDevelopmentStudiesfromtheInstituteofSocial
Studies,TheHague.ShehasbeenaresearcherattheAsianInstituteofTechnology,
Bangkok,andtheShanghaiAcademyofSocialSciences.Herpublicationshave
beenintheareasofemployment,industrialization,women’spsychology,andgen-
dersocialization. Sheisalsointerestedinmigration,theprivateeconomy,and
socialnetworkanalysis.
Notesoncontributors
xi
BarryWellman:StudentofnetworkssincehisteenagegangdaysinNewYork
City.HehascontinuednetworkingasProfessorofSociologyattheUniversityof
Toronto.WellmanfoundedtheInternationalNetworkforSocialNetworkAnalysis
in1977andleditforadozenyears.Hehasco-editedSocialStructures:ANetwork
Approach(2nded,JAIPress,1998)andeditedNetworksintheGlobalVillage
(WestviewPress,1999).
ScottWilson:AssistantProfessorofPoliticalScienceatTheUniversityofthe
South.Hisdissertationandsubsequentpublicationshavefocusedonchanging
socialrelationsinperi-urbanShanghaivillagescausedbytheDengeraeconomic
reforms.CurrentlyheisresearchingtheimpactofforeigninvestmentsfromJapan,
theUnitedStates,andHongKongontheirShanghaihostbusinessenvironment.
LIST OF FIGURES AND TABLES
figures
2.1 Proportionoffirmsbyadministrativerankthatrelyonguanxi
(inmarkets)andguanxixue(inofficialprocedures)infoursectors
inindustrialShanghai,1995.
page54
11.1 Graphicalandmatrixrepresentationofanetwork.
227
11.2 Anetworkofnetworks:Fromaninterpersonaltoan
interorganizationalnetwork.Copyright
©
BarryWellman1988.
231
11.3 TypicalNorthAmericannetwork.Copyright
©
BarryWellman
1988.
233
tables
2.1 Logisticcoefficientsforthedeterminantsoftheuseof
connections[guanxi]inhiringdecisionsinfourindustrial
sectors,Shanghai,1995.
50
4.1 Guanxiinlendingandtraderelations:Logisticregressionresults.
90
6.1 Basiccharacteristicsofasampleof100interviewees.
120
6.2 Jobchangesexperiencedbyasampleof100interviewees.
121
11.1 Blockmodelofseekingadvice.
230
AN INTRODUCTION TOTHE STUDY
OF GUANXI
ThomasGold,DougGuthrie,andDavidWank
Guanxi
1
(pronounced“gwan-shee”),looselytranslatedas“connections,”isthelat-
estChinesewordtogainentryintoEnglishparlance.Whilethetermwasvirtually
unknowntonon-Chinesespeakersadecadeago,todayitisusedbyChineseand
non-Chinesespeakersalike,andithasmadeitswayintomanypopularvenues.
Indeed,InternetsearchenginessuchasYahooandAltavistayieldsome2,000
referencesundertheheading“guanxi.”ConventionalwisdomamongChineseand
foreignersholdsthatinthePeople’sRepublicofChina(PRC),guanxiisabsolutely
essentialtosuccessfullycompleteanytaskinvirtuallyallspheresofsociallife.
GuanxipurportedlyperformsacriticallubricatingfunctioninMainlandChina,
andalsointheperipheralChinesesocietiesofHongKongandTaiwan,among
minorityChinesecommunitiesinSoutheastAsiaandelsewhere,andasameans
oflinkingtogethertheglobalChinesediaspora.
Guanxihasbothpositiveandnegativeconnotations,withthelatterdominating
mostofthediscussions.Criticsseeitasfuelingthecountry’srampantcorruption,
andasanobstacletoChina’sbecomingamodernsocietybasedontheruleoflaw.
Thosewhoseeitinamorefavorablelightcontendthatguanxiaddsanelementof
humanitytootherwisecoldtransactions,andcomestotherescueintheabsenceof
consistentregulationsorguidelinesforsocialconduct.Thereisalsodisagreement
overtheextenttowhichguanxiissomethinguniquetoChina:Tosomeobservers
andpractitioners,guanxiisanessentialanddefiningelementofChineseculture,
handeddownrelativelyunchangedthroughtimeandspace.Toothers,guanxiis
littlemorethanaChinesewordforthepersonalnetworks,socialcapital,andgift
economiesfoundinallsocieties.Finally,butnotleastofall,thereisconsiderable
disagreementoverthefateofguanxiintheperiodofeconomicreforms:Some
scholarsarguethatasthestatehaslooseneditsgripontheeconomy,theroleof
1 ThisbookutilizesthepinyinsystemofromanizationdevelopedontheMainland.Manyoftheworks
citedutilizetheolderWade-Gilessystem.WhenaChinesetermfirstappears,wewillindicatethe
alternativeromanizationwhenappropriate,inparentheses.
4
gold,guthrie,andwank
guanxihasexpandedinChinesesociety.Theyarguethatitsrolewillcontinue
toexpand,leadingtoaneconomicsystemthatissubstantiallydifferentfromthe
rational-legalsystemsthatdefineWesternmarketeconomies.Othersbelievethat
theroleofguanxiisdecliningintheeraofeconomicreforms,andthateventually
formalrationallawwillsupplantthenormsofthepersonaleconomy.
Thecontributorstothisvolumestakeoutavarietyofpositionswithinthese
debates.Ourgoalhasbeentobringtogetherseveraloftheindividualswhohave
contributedtothescholarshipanddebateoverwhatguanximeansinChineseso-
cietyandhowitischangingintheperiodof economicreforms.Whileweall
generallyagreethatguanxiisaspecificallyChineseidiomofsocialnetworks,
integrallylinkedtootherbuildingblocksofChinesesocialitysuchasganqing
(sentiment),renqing(humanfeelings),mianzi(face),andbao(reciprocity),our
viewsvaryontheextenttowhichguanxiisshapedbyinstitutionalcontextsand
onitsfutureinthereformera.Inthisvolume,wehavepushedourselvestofocus
ondemonstratingandexplainingthedynamicinterrelationsbetweenculturaltraits
andinstitutionalcontextssurroundingguanxiinChinesesociety.
ThePRCpresentsanextremecaseforunderstandingthiscomplicatedinter-
actionofcultureandinstitutions.GiventheChineseCommunists’relentlessand
sustainedattacksonwhattheysawassuch“feudal”andbackwardtraitsasthe
relianceonparticularisticguanxi-typeratherthanuniversalistic“modern”orien-
tationstothesocialworld,andtheireffortstobuildasetofinstitutionsbasedon
radicallydifferentprinciples,thestubbornpersistenceofguanxiinpracticeandin
thepopularmindrequiresexplanation.Thoughcomingfromdifferentacademic
disciplines,alloftheauthorsassembledherehaveconductedextendedfieldwork
inMainlandChina,andmanyhavealsodoneresearchinHongKongorTaiwan.
Somesetoutexplicitlytostudytheoperationofguanxi;morecommonly,inthe
courseoffieldworkonothertopics,theywerestruckbythecentralityoftheterm
“guanxi”ineverydaydiscourse,popularculture,andpoliticaldebate,andthenbe-
gantoexamineitmoreconcretelyandsystematically.Ratherthanseeingguanxi
asanunchangingandfixedculturaltrait,theirresearchdemonstratesboththeper-
sistenceofguanxiandhowitischanginginthemidstoftherapidinstitutional
transformationsthathavesweptacrossChinasincethelate1970s.
Adetailedlookatguanxiwillshedlightononeofthemostdominantaspectsof
contemporaryChineselife,butithaslargerimplicationsforthesocialsciencesas
well.Firstamongtheseistheissueofinstitutionalchangeinarapidlytransforming
economyandtheextenttowhichwhatappeartobeindigenousfeaturesofChinese
social,political,andeconomic landscapeswillendureinthefaceofdramatic
upheavalandchange.TheseemingpersistenceofguanxiinChinesesociety,in
spiteofconsciousandconscientiouseffortstoeradicateitbyCommunistsand
capitalistsalike,offersinterestinginsightsintothecomplexinteractionofculture,
institutions,andsocialpracticeinamodernizingsociety(Dickson1992;Nathan
andTsai1995). Studyofguanxicanshedlightonissues of politicalculture,
suchastheoperationsofinformalpoliticsandthepotentialforsocialnetworksto
evolveintosomethingresemblingcivilsociety(LoandOtis1999).Understanding
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