Dim Sum – The way of our fathers – Guanxi

Français : logo caractère guanxi

Français : logo caractère guanxi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am of Chinese origin, attended school where the medium of instruction was English with more western orientation than the Chinese medium schools.   I found out that even with 8 years of Chinese lessons, I  did not absorb enough for me to  speak Chinese. At home, I had no practice in speaking the language with all its tonal nuances,  because there was  heavier bias towards Peranakaan (mixture of Malay/Indonesian and a smattering of Chinese dialects) patois at home.  My paternal grandfather of Chinese origin preferred the western values, standards and commercial customs  as he worked for a British company. He had considerable influence on his grandchildren as we lived as part of his extended family  right through our teenage years. Therefore as a family we were not so familiar with the ways of Guanxi.

However, there was no escape from Guanxi’s influence.  Even though the mainland Chinese and overseas Chinese may  look alike,  we have different  values, standards and mores.  When I had  work assignments  in China I had to be in the commercial environement where exchanges of favors or “connections” are beneficial for the parties. I found it somewhat time consuming and complex  revolving circles of personal and mutual trust.   I had to take the time to understand guanxi in order to be aware of guanxi networks which may not be open to visitors and to ensure proper positioning for my assignments. I believe the west knows guanxi  as  “relationship after service.”

This kind of relationship is not only based on direct cash exchanges but often include “hidden guanxi” transactions, not  obvious to the casual observer. Although the direct giving of “gifts” is a common form of building “guanxi” it isn’t the only way and inclued inviting or hosting dinners for prospective clients or business partners. However, not all “guanxi” is good. “guanxi” as the exchange of favors or “inside information”  Relationships built on “guanxi” can quickly fade or disappear if part of the “relationship chain” is put into question for any reason. There is a fine line between “guanxi” and bribery . The path to good “guanxi” isn’t an easy path to follow. Tipping to one side can put relationships made in this way a case for legal action.  Creating “guanxi” is tenuous.

It is said that guanxi is a 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”. Benefits gained from social connections usually extend from extended family, school friends, workmates and members of common clubs or organizations through an intricate web of guanxi relationships,  may expand in a huge number of directions, and includes lifelong relationships. Reciprocal favors are the key factor to maintaining one’s  guanxi  web.  Failure to reciprocate is considered an unforgivable offense. The more you ask of someone the more you owe them. This perpetuates a never ending cycle of favors The relationships formed by guanxi are personal and not transferable  and generally does not describe relationships that fall within other well-defined societal norms (e.g. boss–worker, teacher–student, friendship).

The boundary between business and social lives can sometimes be ambiguous as people tend to rely heavily on their closer relations and friends. This can result in nepotism in the workforce as it is common for authoritative figures to draw from family and close ties to fill employment opportunities; instead of assessing talent and suitability such as is the norm in Western societies, often preventing the most suitably qualified person being employed for the position and enjoying important resources and privileges.

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.
When interpersonal obligations take precedence over civic duties,  Nepotism” and “Cronyism” could be the result.  It could be favoritism because the people being discriminated against do not belong within a clearly delinated legally protected group. Like the old boys network in the west, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ is associated with this tradition.

As an auditor I had to understand the underpinings of Guanxi for signs of favoritism, signs of  corruption by bribes bypassing corporate procurement procedures, unmerited promotions and hiring the technically incompetent.

As a Christian, the commandment to love our neighbours as ourself applies. If discrimination was involved, there could not be love for the one who has been deprived and who qualified better.

If there was corruption for easy jumping of the queue, or unmerited favour  this would be against Christian principles of equity and honesty and hard work.

Christians are familiar with the grace of God when we receive unmerited favor which is one way. In Guanxi it is two ways which could be a spiral bind to the end of one participant.

Guanxi is tenuous and basis unclear so that  with any hint of trouble the relationship could be denied, whereas the Bible clearly teaches that our yea must be yea and nay, nay and God’s grace is based on His Word.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-15

6 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you,

9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.

10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary indoing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Christians should maintain good relationships with those they do business. However, the underpinnings should be equity, hard work, meritocracy, and care and love for the best outcome according to God’s principles.

Reference : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guanxi

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About ptl2010

Jesus Christ is coming soon
This entry was posted in A CLICK A BLESSING TODAY, CHRISTIAN DIM SUMS, CHRISTIAN LIFE AND THE WORD and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dim Sum – The way of our fathers – Guanxi

  1. I’m not sure I understand about Guanxi, but I do understand the need to always give priority to God and His ways. His way is ALWAYS best.

  2. Lyn Leahz says:

    Awesome post sister!

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