Enabling Guanxi Management in China: A Hierarchical Stakeholder Model of Effective Guanxi

Journal of Business Ethics 71 (3):301-319 (2007)
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Abstract

Guanxi (literally interpersonal connections) is in essence a network of resource coalition-based stakeholders sharing resources for survival, and it plays a key role in achieving business success in China. However, the salience of guanxi stakeholders varies: not all guanxi relationships are necessary, and among the necessary guanxi participants, not all are equally important. A hierarchical stakeholder model of guanxi is developed drawing upon Mitchell et al.’s (1997) stakeholder salience theory and Anderson’s (1982) constituency theory. As an application of instrumental stakeholder theory, the model dimensionalizes the notion of stakeholder salience, and distinguishes between and among internal and external guanxi, core, major, and peripheral guanxi, and primary and secondary guanxi stakeholders. Guanxi management principles are developed based on a hierarchy of guanxi priorities and management specializations. The goal of this application of instrumental stakeholder theory is to construct, for Western business firms in China, a means to reliably identify guanxi partners by employing the principles of effective guanxi. These principles are described in the form of testable propositions that advance social scientific research in this area of international business ethics.

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