Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Reciprocal Norms Moderate the Influence of Guanxi on Feelings and Behavior of Closeness

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Reciprocal Norms Moderate the Influence of Guanxi on Feelings and Behavior of Closeness

Article excerpt

Chinese people usually consider guanxi in interpersonal interactions. Guanxi means interpersonal relationships, ties, connections, and social links. Guanxi is at the foundation of Chinese social structure and greatly influences Chinese people's behaviors (Fei, 1947/1992). Social groups and networks are formed according to guanxi. Individuals who maintain a wide range of social groups and circles are regarded as possessing many important social resources. Chinese people pay strong attention to having group membership in common with others, and relationship ties through shared ancestry. This focus relates to the theory of self-construal, which refers to how individuals consider their connections with others (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). We have used the concept of self-construal, together with guanxi, in this study to discuss interpersonal connections. Generally, Chinese people are viewed as having strongly interdependent self-construal; they emphasize connections with others and consider themselves as members of one or several groups (Cross, Hardin, & Gercek-Swing, 2010). The topic of guanxi has been the focus in many studies (e.g., Bian, 1997; Chen, Chen, & Huang, 2013; Li & Chen, 2014). We believed that it was worth investigating how to effectively and practically measure and compare guanxi in the Chinese cultural context in order to reveal its nature.

There were two directions in our research on guanxi. In one part of the study, we investigated Chinese cases based on the theories and concepts of interpersonal relationships, social capital, and social networks (Bian, 1997; Li & Chen, 2014). In the other direction of our research we considered guanxi as an independent field (Chen et al., 2013) and stressed its particularity. We believed that it is important to note that in the latter direction we ignored the consideration of the inherent feature of guanxi; that is interpersonal connections. We adopted the first of our research directions, took the consistent aspects of guanxi and interpersonal relationships as the basis of our study, and simultaneously considered the cultural differences between guanxi and interpersonal relationships.

The strength and form of guanxi are changing constantly (Fei, 1947/1992). Measurement of guanxi requires exact specification of its predictors and indicators. The source of guanxi is an accurate predictor and closeness is the best indicator of guanxi (Marsden & Campbell, 1984). The term guanxi as used in our study means the source of guanxi. Although many researchers have thoroughly discussed the maintenance and establishment of close relationships, best friends, and Facebook friends in Western cultures (Ellison, Vitak, Gray, & Lampe, 2014), there is no research in which the focus has been on the maintenance and establishment of guanxi. Our aim was to investigate the links between guanxi and the changes in closeness during the process of guanxi development and maintenance. Trust is another important dimension of guanxi (Granovetter, 1983; Marsden & Campbell, 1984), and we also measured interpersonal trust and its effects on behavior in this study.

Although longitudinal surveys are traditionally viewed as one of the best choices for investigating behaviors related to closeness, this method is costly in terms of time and effort; usually requiring several months or even years to complete (Murray, Holmes, Griffin, & Derrick, 2015; Roberts & Dunbar, 2011). A new research method was developed as a result of the development of social media, in which a questionnaire and online behavior are combined (Burke & Kraut, 2014); this method, however, still lacks control. We believed that it would be worth manipulating the process of guanxi establishment and maintenance under experimental laboratory conditions.

Some researchers of game theory have taken interpersonal relationships as influencing factors (Bapna, Gupta, Rice, & Sundararajan, 2011). …

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