Guanxi as Social Exchange: Emotions, Power and Corruption

Jack Barbalet*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


After reviewing social exchange theory and identifying emotions as key to exchange relations the article introduces Chinese guanxi as a form of gift exchange, elsewhere treated in terms of its network attributes. The obligatory nature of exchange, noted by Mauss and extensively discussed by Blau, is explained through ‘social sentiments’ that substantiate assurance in exchange. The emotions-complexes renqing and ganqing, basic to guanxi, are outlined. Social esteem as a consequence of participation in exchange distinguishes the latter from bribery, in which coercion predominates. The article advances sociological understanding in these and associated ways by regarding exchange and guanxi as arenas of emotion practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)934-949
Number of pages16
Issue number5
Early online date1 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • ganqing
  • renqing
  • bribery
  • clientelism
  • esteem
  • gift-exchange


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