Guanxi and Corporate Community Involvement

  • Rui Yang

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This research investigates the relationship between guanxi and Corporate Community Involvement (CCI) in the Chinese business environment. The thesis provides valuable insights into the motivation and management of CCI in China where the institutional and cultural context is radically different from the Western contexts. This thesis also places CCI in the context of guanxi and thus bridges the literatures on CCI and guanxi. Strategic motivation and management of CCI has been studied extensively in the context of Western countries. However, the extant literature offers limited insights into the motivation and management of CCI in the Chinese business environment. The Chinese business environment is characterised by a comparatively poor legal system and weak property rights. In such an environment guanxi – a system of personal connections that carry long-term social obligations – are held to play a significant role in business relationships in China. Earlier studies have found that guanxi is able to influence a variety of corporate behaviours. Nevertheless, no attempt has been made to investigate how CCI may have been influenced by guanxi in China. This research develops a conceptual model and six propositions, which explain how CCI is strategically tailored to initiate guanxi, and furthermore, facilitate inter-organisational relationship development through such guanxi in China. Based on an empirical case analysis of 148 CCI projects from three types of company; foreign, state-owned, and private, this research explores the relationship between CCI and guanxi and tests the conceptual model and propositions. The empirical data was collected deploying face-to-face, semi-structured interviews with 65 companies (30 foreign companies, 9 state-owned companies, and 26 private companies) in China.The findings indicate that foreign companies’ and private companies’ CCI are motivated by guanxi development. Their CCI behaviours are strategically tailored to initiate guanxi with key stakeholders, and in particular with stakeholders who possess strong governmental backgrounds; and Chinese state-owned companies’ CCI behaviours are subject to little influence of guanxi development. While foreign companies used guanxi to facilitate their inter-organisational relationship development, private companies used guanxi to obtain formal institutional supports. From the findings, the conclusion is drawn that guanxi plays a significant role in motivating CCI engagement and shaping CCI behaviours in China, and, through such guanxi, CCI can be employed to facilitate inter-organisational relationship building and obtain formal institutional support.
Date of Award2 Jul 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAndrew Millington (Supervisor), Stephen Pavelin (Supervisor) & Stephen Brammer (Supervisor)


  • Guanxi
  • corporate community involvement
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • China
  • inter-organisational relationships

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