Guanxi describes the basic dynamic in personalized networks of influence, and is a central idea in Chinese society. In Western media, the pinyin romanization of this Chinese word is becoming more widely used instead of the two common translations—"connections" and "relationships"—as neither of those terms sufficiently reflects the wide cultural implications that guanxi describes.
Closely related concepts include that of ganqing, a measure which reflects the depth of feeling within an interpersonal relationship, renqing, the moral obligation to maintain the relationship, and the idea of "face", meaning social status, propriety, prestige, or more realistically a combination of all three.
At its most basic, guanxi describes a personal connection between two people in which one is able to prevail upon another to perform a favor or service, or be prevailed upon. The two people need not be of equal social status. Guanxi can also be used to describe a network of contacts, which an individual can call upon when something needs to be done, and through which he or she can exert influence on behalf of another. In addition, guanxi can describe a state of general understanding between two people: "he/she is aware of my wants/needs and will take them into account when deciding her/his course of future actions which concern or could concern me without any specific discussion or request".
The term is not generally used to describe relationships within a family, although guanxi obligations can sometimes be described in terms of an extended family. The term is also not generally used to describe relationships that fall within other well-defined societal norms (e.g. boss-worker, teacher-student, friendship). The relationships formed by guanxi are personal and not transferable.
When a guanxi network violates bureaucratic norms, it can lead to corruption, and guanxi can also form the basis of patron-client relations.
Someone is described as having good guanxi if their particular network of influence could assist in the resolution of the problem currently being spoken about.
Guanxi is most often used in the Western media when interpersonal obligations take precedence over civic duties, leading to nepotism and cronyism.
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