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Guanxi Revisited: An Exploratory Study of Familiar Ties in a Chinese Workplace

  • Jar-Der Luo (a1)


Do Chinese people restrict their complex transactions to a trusted inner circle composed of strong ties? Hwang's (1988) study points out that Chinese people often convert unfamiliar ties into familiar ties when the latter become trustworthy people. This conversion is instrumental in ensuring the fulfilment of promises in complex transactions because it contains an element of emotional attachment or moral obligation. This paper employs network data in a Chinese workplace to demonstrate the following points: first, there is indeed a type of guanxi in the Chinese workplace that can be described as ‘familiar ties’. Second, familiar ties contain as much trust as friendship ties and more than acquaintance ties. A Chinese person may search for his or her possible partners among strangers, then develop trust within this guanxi and gradually transform the relationship into familiar ties. It is through these ties that interpersonal trust can grow and enable complex transactions.

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Management and Organization Review
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