Is Guanxi Orientation Bad, Ethically Speaking? A Study of Chinese Enterprises

Journal of Business Ethics 44 (4):303-312 (2003)
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Abstract

Guanxi as one of the key factors leading to business success in China (PRC) has ironically been synonymous with bribery. This raises some serious questions: should Western foreign firms do business in China? How should they do business with Chinese firms? This study investigated the relationship between guanxi orientation and cognitive moral development in an attempt to determine whether the level of guanxi orientation of Chinese business people affects their ethical reasoning. Based on a classification of Chinese enterprises (Nee, 1992), it was found that Chinese enterprises rely on guanxi for business to different extents. However, their levels of cognitive moral development are not significantly different, suggesting that guanxi orientation has very little to do with ethical reasoning (as captured through an established measure of cognitive moral development). Furthermore, time in profession was found to positively affect guanxi orientation; however, age failed to predict guanxi orientation and education turned out to be a negative predictor of guanxi orientation.

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