- Gordon Dumoulin
Behind 'guanxi' (关系)... China is not a market, it is a community...
华而不实 𝘧𝘭𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘯𝘰 𝘧𝘳𝘶𝘪𝘵
𝗖𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗮 𝗶𝘀 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗮 𝗺𝗮𝗿𝗸𝗲𝘁... 𝗖𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗮 𝗶𝘀 𝗮 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗺𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝘆, 𝗮𝗻 𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝘁𝘆
People regularly ask me; how can I set up sales in the attractive Chinese market ?
Apart from an introduction on the linear graph of investment vs. time (which often already scares the hell out of people), nothing will advance without commitment, responsibility and identity.
A popular term in the West with respect to ‘doing business in China’ is ‘𝗚𝘂𝗮𝗻𝘅𝗶’ (关系), generally understood as the necessity of having the right relations and connections.
But this understanding comprises only a tiny little part of what Guanxi is about. Guanxi is like the jelly in raisin puddings, raisins being businesses, people, governments or personal puddings with relatives, classmates and friends.
Guanxi is the environment of entities (may it be organisations or individuals) in which you live, work and grow. An environment constantly changing in size, shape and content.
It provides ways, opportunities but also demands duties and commitments and responsibilities. Moreover all guangxi networks overlap and relate again to each other as a huge organism.
𝗚𝘂𝗮𝗻𝘅𝗶 𝗶𝘀 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘁 𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗱𝗼 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂, the success (balance) of guanxi is about your (and each directly related) responsibility, performance and commitment. Success or failure is not yours exclusively, it affects the guangxi as a whole.
So while a typical favour may not benefit you directly or might even be a thorn in the flesh for a moment, think twice what this favour means to your guanxi and how it might contribute.
Guanxi is sometimes perceived in the West as a concept for corruption or nepotism but this is incorrect. Naturally guanxi is subject to the possibility of corruptive behaviour but this is true for any kind of relation network, irrelevant of more or less rules-based (bending the written or unwritten rules). It is about your ethical behaviour and norms, and of those in your guanxi.
Building a guangxi is not that difficult but becoming a member of a guanxi which is compatible and resonating to your personal or professional life in the long run takes tremendous time, trust and efforts. A natural course defined by your own behaviour and commitment.
And guanxi is definitely not about just switching from one to another. Once you commit, it is a responsibility and duty, part of your identity. Think now again in this context about the reason why Chinese business partners always take ample time and considerations before collaboration decisions
Doing business in China is not just about following the rules and paying your taxes, 𝗶𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮 𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗽𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗺𝗶𝘁𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗺𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗖𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗮 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗺𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝘆, 𝗯𝗼𝘁𝗵 𝗺𝗶𝗰𝗿𝗼 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗺𝗮𝗰𝗿𝗼.