“Guanxi” in China: Use Them To Your Advantage



In Chinese, the word guanxi (关系) has two basic meanings – “relationship” and “connections”.

It’s not an exagerration to say that Chinese people are dealing with guanxi almost every minute of their daily lives. It includes one’s relationships with parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, and pretty much everyone around.

If you are in China, guanxi may come in handy in terms of job hunting and promotion, which are two inalienable parts of one’s professional career. In this article, let’s take a closer look at guanxi at workplace from two different perspectives: “relationships” and “connections”.



In China, showing excessive ambition or aggression in any kind of relationship is viewed as indecent behavior, and that’s why subordination is considered something very delicate in Chinese companies. Working in harmony with your boss and colleagues plays a crucial part in your work, and inappropriately handled relationships with your co-workers could have a detrimental effect on your career development.

If you happen to work in a Chinese company, there are a couple of things that you need to remember if you want to handle your relationship with your colleagues properly.

Below, we present you an insider’s view on guanxi; you might not agree with all points, or they might be different in your culture – but it’s always helpful to have a peak at how the Chinese people see it. It could even help you explain your coworkers’ behaviour in many ways.


1. Don’t Make Yourself Look Too Ambitious

It’s certainly a good thing if you can deal with different tasks at work, but it is believed that one had better not show off their versatility in front of colleagues. In other words, “standing out” or “getting noticed” at work isn’t the right thing to do. Some Chinese people are very sensitive and are extremely careful with everything that poses a threat to them. Therefore, as long as your Chinese colleagues see you as a competitor, they’ll keep a distance from you and start gossiping about you. Consequently, your relationship with them will get awkward. It’d be rather sensible to wait for your colleagues to recognize you as an asset to the company.


2. Mind Your Own Business Before Helping Others

In China, trying to be helpful is highly valued. However, avoid being too “dedicated” to caring about other people at work, because some colleagues may think you are being too nosy. Sometimes they might even take offence, taking it as if you doubt their skillls and abilities. That’s why it’s important to understand when it’s the right time to help your co-workers, and what exactly they need from you.


3. Maintain a Good Relationship With Your Boss

If you work at a Chinese company, your relationship with your boss is closely related to your future career development. Sometimes whether you can get a promotion or not purely depends on your boss. So, always remember to show respect to your boss even when you don’t agree with him/her on a certain issue. Whenever there is a problem or a disagreement, it’d be always helpful to communicate it with your boss in a nice and friendly way.

Guanxi with Boss



In China, connections play a vital role when it comes to job hunting and promotion. Every year employers in China receive stacks of CVs from millions of fresh graduates, and the total number of graduates surely exceeds the number of vacancies available on the job market. Bearing this in mind, many fresh graduates try to find a “shortcut”, and get hired by people who know their parents or relatives. They’ll still need to attend an interview in this case, but it’s only a matter of “showing up”, which means it’s rather like a chat.

Guanxi As Connections

Chinese people are constantly looking for better opportunities for their professional career, and that’s why many Chinese aren’t willing to stay in the same position or the same company for too long. Again, when you’re thinking of changing your job, your connections might surprise you with some unexpected twists. As we all know, socializing and connections are two inseparable parts for people to grow their social network, and many young people in China have started to realize the importance of making connections. That’s probably one of the reasons why different kinds of social business events have been getting more and more popular in China.



What’s your take on guanxi? Do you have a similar concept in your culture? Share it with us on Twitter!

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That’s Mandarin Blog offers tips and advice on living and studying Mandarin in China, and explores the stark cultural differences between the East, the West – and everything in between.

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