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Guanxi possesses a variant network form. A characterization of guanxi in terms of its cultural and institutional attributes is provided, paralleling accounts emphasizing respectively its expressive and instrumental qualities. Both are aspects of guanxi’s reputational focus. Tie strength is considered in terms of differences between latent-structure networks, where tie strength discerns patterned differences, and volitionally constructed networks, where it does not. It is shown that as guanxinetworks are constituted by iterated obligations, influence (a directing power) cannot flow through them. Obligation (a constraining power) marks the character of guanxinetworks. Finally, discussion turns to the information opaque nature of guanxi, resulting from guanxi’s cultivated form and the obligatory relationships underlying it (requiring confidentiality and mutual monitoring of participants). The adaptability of guanxi in different historical contexts, from imperial China to the present-day market reform period, is suggested throughout.


Institute for Religion, Politics, and Society

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Journal Article

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