The more China changes, the more it stays the same.
Just because China has a one-party political system that calls itself the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), that doesn’t mean the government is not Chinese. In fact, the CCP maintains that despite the co-existence of private capitalists and entrepreneurs with public and collective enterprises, China is not a capitalist country because the party retains control over the direction of the country, maintaining its course of socialist development.
In China, Guanxi is a complex system of social networks and influential relationships which facilitate business and other dealings. Because Guanxi is built into social networks and influential relationships, it also runs deep through the CCP like threads through a complex interwoven, handmade tapestry.
Sir Robert Hart (1835 – 1911), the godfather of China’s modernization and the main character in my historical fiction novel, My Splendid Concubine, discovered the importance of Guanxi soon after he arrived in China and eventually went to work for China’s Emperor. Hart quickly learned that a ‘supreme value of loyalty glued together China’s structure of personal relationships.’
In addition, Robert Hart wrote in a letter in 1891, “These people (referring to the Chinese) never act too soon, and, so far, I have not known of their losing anything by being late. To glide naturally, easily and seasonably into the safe position sequence as circumstances make, is probably a sounder though less heroic policy for a state than to be forever experimenting …”
To translate, it takes time to develop Guanxi through relationships, friendships, and trust where everyone benefits. In China, one must prove they can be trusted before being accepted into a Guanxi social and/or business network.
There are several elements and layers to Guanxi. First, Guanxi is based on a Confucian hierarchy of familial relationships, long-term friendships, classmates, and schoolmates that no stranger, Chinese or foreign, will ever have access to.
Guanxi developed over millennia because China did not have a stable and effective legal system similar to the one that developed in western countries.
And thanks to the greed, insanity, and incompetence of President Donald Trump and the Libertarian movement in the United States, China will probably never become a capitalist kleptocracy like the U.S. is fast becoming. Guanxi will make sure that never happens in China, and corrupt individuals like Donald Trump will never understand how Guanxi works because of his inability to be honest and trust others. To Trump, he must always win and everyone else must lose.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.
Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.