New Series: Cool Non-English Words #1 – Guanxi

New Series: Cool Non-English Words #1 – Guanxi

When you start learning a new language, you very quickly discover there are words in other languages that have no exact translation in English (or your own mother-tongue). This series explores those linguistic novelties….

#1 – Guanxi / 关系 

This fabulous word comes from China.

Photo: Athena Lam

It describes the significance of building personal relationships and social networks in facilitating your business dealings. Confused? So is most of the Western world.

As most know, Chinese culture is much more community orientated, compared to many western cultures. Guanxi is an example of this. In Chinese business, the relationship you have on a personal level with the people you are doing business with is very important. It is similar to the concept of networking, but involves building a strong level of trust between people. It also doesn’t stop once the deal is closed – business partners are expected to maintain Guanxi with each other, after the deal is signed. This is why it is important for many businesses to have a long term physical presence in China.

Another interesting aspect of Guanxi is that there is a sense of obligation – both parties must give and receive in turn – whether it be dining out, giving gifts for the other party’s children, business introductions etc – it is a mutual process. Some Western orientated businesses can find it tricky to navigate, as it can sometimes clash with their sense of transparency (avoiding bribes for biased decisions etc).

For some more articles on Guanxi, see:


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