Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Guanxi explained

A few years ago a friend sent me a series of diagrams like this, illustrating key differences between 'Western' and Chinese culture (said to have been created by a Chinese girl who's emigrated to Germany; I didn't originally know the source, but I've learned that it's a graphic designer called Yang Liu). This is one of my favourites, on the concept of networking, or guanxi, as the Chinese say. On the left, we Westerners are stuck in our tightknit little groups, rarely breaking out beyond one or two degrees of separation. On the right, for the Chinese, everyone is connected to everyone else, albeit very tenuously. If you know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone in a position of power, a chain of reciprocal favours can be initiated - that's guanxi!

4 comments:

moonrat said...

hahaha this is terribly elegant.

life in China looks a bit like... blogging. hmm.

Unknown said...

Those amazing illustrations were done by Yang Liu - www.yangliudesign.com - well worth checking out all the rest.

JES said...

The stereotypical behavior of New Yorkers as cold, abrupt, impolite, and so on, I've heard, arises from necessity: surrounded so closely by so many people, you can drive yourself crazy by attending to everyone as much as you might like. So they have the curtains drawn over their verbal and non-verbal "connect to me" signals as a matter of course. (The flip side of this is that NYers are astoundingly, profoundly warm and complex, on the whole, when you get past that everyday curtain.)

I wonder if something similar could be behind these differences in approaches to networking, as well as some of the other East/West differences you discuss here?

Froog said...

I think I already have the full set, but thanks for identifying the source for us, David. I'll go check that out. More to follow in the New Year (if I don't get embarrassed about "copyright" issues!).

Culture, one presumes, JES, must grow from its environment - but some aspects of Chinese 'culture' are so damned weird, the mind boggles at how they could have arisen.