Guan Xi (Relationships)

The Fundamental to doing business with the locals

Every business transaction is a dealing of guanxi (關係) and every guanxi is intricately connected and maintained. A Chinese has guanxi with all kinds of people: in the work unit, at local shops and street stands, and with relatives, friends, colleagues, subordinates and supervisors. It’s what makes many aspects of daily life run smoothly. No one should wish to remain completely outside the guanxi system, and no one can. It is just as important to accumulate credit in what I call the ‘guanxi account’ as it is to save money in one’s bank account. Just as we all wish to have more money in our bank account, every Taiwanese desires to accumulate more connections in their ‘guanxi account’. The more one has in his/her ‘guanxi account’, the more face, respect and prestige are gained.

There is no direct English translation for the word guanxi. It’s often translated as ‘relationship’ but it is far more than that; it describes your relationship, connection, dependency, network, friendship and, most importantly, your obligation. One’s life revolves around the accumulated guanxi and the resulting obligations of these connections. Guanxi involves an ongoing series of reciprocal exchanges. One helps and gives to another and therefore expects, at some unspecified future date, to receive from that other person......