From Guanxi to Social Capital and Back Again: A Qualitative Study of Australian Chinese Migrants

Zhuqin Feng*, Roger Patulny

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


The global diaspora of Chinese migrants maintains vital economic, social and cosmopolitan connections between China and many Western countries. These migrants face the challenge of navigating and building social capital within Western host countries. Previous studies show that Chinese networks make use of pre-existing strong guanxi ties based on shared cultural expectations to support members. However, the thinness of guanxi networks in foreign countries raises doubts about their capacity to support the migration experience. This study uses qualitative interview data to show that both Chinese migrants and non-migrant Australians use strong ties to acquire resources, such as favours. However, Chinese migrants also make use of weak guanxi ties to seek favours in ways Australian non-migrants typically do not. This indicates a more important role for weaker – or what we call peripheral – ties in Chinese migrant guanxi networks than previous studies suggest, but also points to a lack of alternative resources amongst Chinese migrants struggling to build non-guanxi social capital ties with non-migrant populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-215
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Intercultural Studies
Issue number2
Early online date23 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Guanxi
  • social capital
  • migration
  • Chinese migrants
  • support


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