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Guanxi in western context: intra-firm group dynamics and expatriate adjustment

Wang, B.X. (2019). Guanxi in western context: intra-firm group dynamics and expatriate adjustment. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Many scholars have addressed the important role that guanxi plays in the Chinese social-economic system. Guanxi is widely accepted in academia as an indigenous construct from China—deeply rooted in Chinese culture and reflected in the behaviour of Chinese people in both the social and institutional environment. During the growing globalisation of Chinese multinational companies, Chinese expatriates have increasingly taken up international assignments and inevitably carried Chinese guanxi to the host country. Research on guanxi in China has been intense. However, how the employees of Chinese multinational companies employ guanxi in the West, how Chinese expatriates develop and use guanxi in the host country, and how these behaviours affect their adjustment remain unclear. My dissertation contributes to this line of study in three ways. I first examined guanxi capitalism theoretically to highlight the features of China’s economic system embedded deeply in its cultural-social-political environment and to explore how guanxi emerged, evolved, and subsequently dominated the economic system in China. Based on this analysis, I developed a conceptual framework of the “Guanxi capitalism structure” to illustrate the fundamental role of guanxi as the “invisible hand” in China. Next, I examined empirically how guanxi practice affects intra-firm multicultural group dynamics involving Chinese expatriates, host-country nationals, and host-country Chinese in Chinese multinationals. My study shows how expatriates actively practice guanxi with their homeland counterparts, but they do not do so with host-country nationals and host-country Chinese, and it explores the implications of these dynamics. Finally, I examined the impact of guanxi building on Chinese expatriate adjustment. Based on my analysis, I developed a process model that illuminates that guanxi development alters expatriates’ adjustment curve significantly. My findings contribute more generally to shed light on cross-cultural management in terms of Chinese guanxi practice and the process of initiating, building, and utilizing guanxi in the Western context.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Departments: Bayes Business School
Doctoral Theses
Bayes Business School > Bayes Business School Doctoral Theses
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