Title: The capitalisation of guanxi and Chinese entrepreneurship: an ethnographic study of petty entrepreneurs in Guangzhou, China

Authors: Chong Gao

Addresses: Department of Sociology, Hong Kong Shue Yan University, 10 Wai Tsui Crescent, Braemar Hill, North Point, Hong Kong

Abstract: Existing studies of guanxi and entrepreneurship often conceive of guanxi in a general sense and explore its effects, significances, usefulness or values from cultural, structural and economic perspectives. As a contrast, this study aims to substantiate guanxi in the actual entrepreneurial process based on detailed ethnographic data derived from extensive fieldwork among petty entrepreneurs in the garment industry of Guangzhou, China. This study adopts a 'culture in action' and social resource capitalisation approach to examine how certain types of guanxi are mobilised for key aspects of a business start-up, such as business information, start-up capital and getting purchase orders. The empirical data reveals that, in general, the palpable capitalisation processes of guanxi are regulated by guanxi norms and obligations. A cultural awareness of guanxi leads to the differentiation of guanxi and business guanxi. Guanxi used in business may be regarded as a byproduct of the workings of guanxi in a complex social world.

Keywords: Chinese entrepreneurship; guanxi capitalisation; Guangzhou garment industry; petty entrepreneurs; small business; China; apparel industry; clothing industry; small firms; ethnographic data; ethnography; entrepreneurial behaviour; culture; social resource capitalisation; business start-up; business information; start-up capital; purchase orders; norms; obligations; cultural awareness.

DOI: 10.1504/IJESB.2014.065303

International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, 2014 Vol.23 No.1/2, pp.27 - 43

Published online: 21 Oct 2014 *

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