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  • Writer's picturePatrick Power

Words from Chinese II: The Case of Guanxi

Updated: Nov 7

Guanxi is a Chinese expression that is widely understood, especially in business circles. However, it is still the case that its meaning needs to be briefly explained if you are using it in your academic writing, as in the examples below:

Among the key factors leading to the success of doing-businesses in Asia, especially in Chinese markets, is the role of guanxi, or personal relationships and connections.

No one has connections like Li Ka-shing. In his hometown of Chaozhou in southern China, he is a hero for building a university. He is said to have shared breakfast congee with Jiang Zemin. Both times that China's president visited Hong Kong — for the 1997 handover and the opening a year later of Chek Lap Kok airport — he stayed at Li's hotel, a unique honor. And Li's partner in developing Beijing's glitziest commercial complex was Tung Chee-hwa, long Li's friend before he became chief executive of Hong Kong. Li, the territory's premier tycoon, is a recognised master of the art of guanxi (personal relations).

Also, as it has been taken from a non-English language, it should be placed in italics. Over time, such borrowings become so widely accepted that italicisation is unnecessary, e.g. risotto, the Italian rice dish, is not italicised because everybody knows what it is, but the word guanxi is not there yet.

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