Bite-size Case Study

Understanding the power of guanxi

Published on April 3, 2016 Originally recorded 2013   2 min
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In a scenario from 1986, Miss Zhou, formerly a train conductor with the Tianjin Railway Bureau, used Guanxi to gain a position as an accountant for a motorcycle repair shop, a difficult move that required several months of Guanxi work. She wanted to change because her situation had become very difficult. She had a baby that could no longer travel with her on the train in a position as a train conductor. Her mother-in-law could not take care of her baby while she went to work, and she did not have any Guanxi with those who could help to enroll the baby in the overnight nursery. A Guanxi work required sensitivity.
The director of the labor bureau was the elder brother of an old friend of her respected uncle. This is where she produced Guanxi. When the director heard about Miss Zhou's situation through her uncle, he used his power to intervene to give Miss Zhou the official documentation granting her permission to search for a new job. This would have been almost impossible without this assistance from a higher authority. To gain a new position at a motorcycle repair shop near her home also required Guanxi. The daughter of the director of the motorcycle shop was an old high school friend for whom Miss Zhou had once purchased some clothing in Shanghai. The director returned the favor by giving Miss Zhou a position in his shop maintaining his Guanxi.