Guanxi is a fundamental web of interpersonal relations permeating Chinese societies that should not be facilely dichotomized into “bad” bribery relations and “good” friendship ties. Guanxi forms multidimensional continua of interpersonal behavior rather than a bad/good dichotomy.
Guanxi relationships can reduce uncertainty, lower search and other transaction costs, provide usable resources, and increase interpersonal pleasure and a sense of connectedness. They provide informal ways to reduce environmental uncertainty and opportunistic behavior. Guanxi networks are flexible, efficient, available, and custom tailored sources of social capital that are low in financial cost.
China, like much of the world, is experiencing a paradigm shift, not only in the way people perceive society, but even more in the way in which people and institutions are connected. It is the shift from living in “little boxes”8 to living in networked societies.