Phillip Khan-Panni

Much of the Networking I have observed in the West is quite aggressively self-centred. It would never work in the East, where ‘connections’ are about ‘I know a man who can’, rather than ‘Why don’t you refer me business?’

Guanxi is a Chinese word that means a social network and influential relationships that can facilitate business dealings.

It is about a balance of favour — having a relationship with someone you feel able to ask for a favour, or call in a favour for you. The favour has to be returned, of course, because it is the honourable thing to do, and because reciprocal favours are the currency of friendship.

The key element is the relationship of trust that must first be established without the expectation of gain.

Another important element is ‘Face’. When you oil the wheels for a friend, you gain Face. It requires cultural sensitivity to operate under such unwritten rules, but they do allow relationships to endure over very long periods, and to repay favours without being asked.

Such behaviour creates a growing network in which the lines are strong, and all who are within it feel part of the same community, committed to mutual support. Key elements are Trust, Face and, of course …


That is the key concept that enables cross cultural communication. It lies at the heart of Guanxi.