The Chinese Triangle of Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong: Comparative Institutional Analyses

By Alvin Y. So; Nan Lin et al. | Go to book overview

11

A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF PERSONAL NETWORKS IN Two CHINESE SOCIETIES

Dandling Ruan

This study compares the patterns of interpersonal relationships in mainland China and Taiwan, two societies that share a common cultural tradition but differ in their political and economic systems. Specifically, we compare the composition of personal networks in two cities in these societies, that is, the relative importance of major social roles, such as kin, friends, and coworkers, in the social world of the individual. Through comparative analysis, we explore the extent to which a common cultural tradition underlies a similar pattern of interpersonal relationship and the extent to which different structural conditions undermine this similar pattern. This, we hope, will contribute to the theoretical understanding of the linkage between microlevel social patterns and macrolevel social constraints, which has been a central concern of sociology since its very beginning.

The current study is based on the personal network data in terms of whom people turn to when they need to discuss important matters. Apparently, both kin and nonkin ties are involved here, and our question is to what extent people from two Chinese societies show different or similar tendencies in choosing particular kinds of kin or nonkin ties.

We expect to see that kin play a very important role in both of the societies under study, given their common cultural tradition, the key element of which is familism (Lang 1946; Yang 1959). Studies have also shown an abundance of mutual help among family members in these two Chinese societies today (e.g., Davis 1993; Unger 1993; Lee and Parish 1994; Whyte 1996; Bian 1997; Logan et al. 1998; Ruan et al. 1998). The reasons for the continuity between past and present are both cultural and structural. For example, the policies of the Chinese government have, to a large degree, strengthened family ties (Whyte 1996; Logan et al. 1998).

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