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Guanxi as a Complex Adaptive System: Definition, Description and Underlying Principals
Journal of Asia Business Studies (2014)
  • Carlin Guo
  • Artemis Chang
  • Xiaohua Yang, University of San Francisco
  • Roxanne Zolin

Guanxi has become a common term in the wider business community and has attracted an increasing attention of researchers. However, a consistent understanding of the concept continues to be elusive. We critically review the extant guanxi literature to identify the major inconsistencies in the way guanxi is currently conceptualized and develop a conceptualization of guanxi which views guanxi as a complex adaptive system formed by the strategic establishing, evolving, utilizing, and maintaining of personal relationships based upon social norms of trust and reciprocal obligation unique to the Chinese culture. This study contributes to research of guanxi and to the field of Chinese management in several ways. First, we identify four levels of inconsistency surrounding the conceptualization of guanxi in the literature, thus clarifying the current common sources of confusion. Second, this study deconstructs the level and core values of guanxi to provide a more transparent picture, enabling researchers to develop more robust measures of guanxi. Finally, we made progress towards a more comprehensive understanding of guanxi by introducing the complex adaptive system perspective into the guanxi research.

  • Guanxi,
  • Social Network,
  • Social Capital,
  • China,
  • Complex Adaptive System
Publication Date
Citation Information
Carlin Guo, Artemis Chang, Xiaohua Yang and Roxanne Zolin. "Guanxi as a Complex Adaptive System: Definition, Description and Underlying Principals" Journal of Asia Business Studies Vol. 8 Iss. 2 (2014)
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