Defining guanxi is a challenge for researchers as this phenomenon exists in many different situations, develops in many different ways, and each guanxi relationship carries its own connotations and history. Kipnis (1997, p. 184) concludes that “no unchanging, single form of guanxi exists” and lists the following forms of guanxi: “urban guanxi, rural guanxi, business guanxi, owner/tenant guanxi, marriage guanxi, classmate guanxi, ” and more. In defining what role guanxi plays, Iacobucci and Ostrom (1996) found that guanxi performs different roles and has different implications for managers in different market situations. It thus appears reasonable to conclude that in the Chinese context, the meaning of guanxi is very general (Tsui & Farh, 1997).
Pye (1992) described guanxi as “friendship with continued exchange of favours, ” while Tsui and Farh (1997) concluded that “relationships based on common ground” are the essence of guanxi. Yeung and Tung (1996) defined guanxi as a “connection, ” while a study by Fock and Woo (1998) found that most respondents agreed on the personal nature of guanxi.