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The Resilience of Guanxi and its New Deployments: A Critique of Some New Guanxi Scholarship

  • Mayfair Mei-hui Yang

In addressing claims that the art of guanxi is declining in China's current incorporation of capitalism, this article argues that guanxi must be treated historically as a repertoire of cultural patterns and resources which are continuously transformed in their adaptation to, as well as shaping of, new social institutions and structures, and by the particular Chinese experience with globalization. The article takes issue with approaches which treat guanxi as a fixed essentialized phenomenon which can only wither away with the onslaught of new legal and commercial regimes. Rather, as the examples of Taiwan and post-socialist Russia's encounter with capitalism suggest, guanxi practice may decline in some social domains, but find new areas to flourish, such as business transactions, and display new social forms and expressions. This historical approach to guanxi, which is sensitive to issues of power both within the Chinese social order and between China and the West, is especially critical of the unreflective positivist methodology and the teleology of modernization theory/narrative and neo-liberal discourse embedded in the argument for the decline of guanxi.

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The China Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0305-7410
  • EISSN: 1468-2648
  • URL: /core/journals/china-quarterly
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