How Does Guanxi Shape Entrepreneurial Behaviour? The Case of Family Businesses in China


This paper explores how Guanxi shapes different levels of entrepreneurial behaviour of family businesses in China. Extant research draws on network theory, suggesting that firms focusing on less intimate social relationships are more entrepreneurial than those focusing on intimate social networks. However, this notion of networks neglects Guanxi’s indigenous cultural roots that promote intimacy in social relationships, thus limiting our understanding of why some firms in China demonstrate a higher level of entrepreneurial behaviour than others. Through an in-depth multi-case study analysis of eight family firms in China, we find that Guanxi is a multi-dimensional concept that can only be effective through intimate relationship building. This study contributes to the social network literature on entrepreneurial behaviour by incorporating the gift exchange theoretical perspective and demonstrating that political Guanxi in China can only facilitate entrepreneurial behaviour when it is built around a significant level of intimacy. We also contribute to family business research by demonstrating that family ties are multi-dimensional. Different cultural values may inform different dimensions of family ties via differences in family business governance structures, which can give rise to different levels of entrepreneurial outcomes. This study offers theoretical and practical implications alongside avenues for future research.

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Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School > Marketing & Strategy
College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School
Additional Information: Copyright © 2022 The Authors.British Journal of Management published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Academy of Management.This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publication ISSN: 1467-8551
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2024 07:32
Date Deposited: 12 May 2023 13:13
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Related URLs: https://onlinel ... 1467-8551.12684 (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2022-12-09
Published Online Date: 2022-12-09
Accepted Date: 2022-10-03
Authors: Su, Shihang (ORCID Profile 0000-0001-9135-4653)
Costanzo, Laura
Lange, Knut
Ghobadian, Abby
Hitt, Michael A.
Ireland, R. Duane



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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