The Gift Economy

Guan Xi = Relations, personal connections, or social networks intentionally cultivated

Arranging a good job. Important before, very important today. In China today
àart of gift giving. Business talks. Art of GuanXi
àhow to cultivate social relationships in order to be successful. Have to know GuanXi/ the local policemen etc in order for business to run smoothly. Always keep this in mind.

Why this is such a distinct phenomenon to China?

What makes it so different
àpeople intentionally practice this
àemphasis that people put on this is very strong in china. Here it’s done but less.
àspecific rules of what’s appropriate. Being generous
àsign of trying to be nice but if over-do it, problems may come up. The degree to which this practice permeates society
àso important to people’s lives that they intentionally cultivate their practice/ intentionally put so much effort on this practice
à critical/ will determine your fate
àhas a bigger influence than here in U.S.

Two Versions of GuanXi

A Power Game

As a life style
àcultivating the guanxi network to obtain deserved resources

Rely on this network to get things done. City people are more orientated towards GuanXi (Art of Social Relationships)
àas a whole
àegalitarian aspect
àgift economy is a form of subversion of the dominant economy at that time.

How people in China maintain themselves as social persons
àmaintaining proper social relationship and distance through gift giving
à crucial in the making of the self.

œGift Economy because it is actually a central part of the rural economy how they distribute and redistribute their resources.
à creates a gift economy and moral economy.

When do rea-estate and business
à extremely important.

Importance of Guanxi in article
à in village
à gift expenditure = 500 yuan
à20% of household income.
àin China people do keep a list of everyday life
àwould write down who gave them what and what time.

3. Concept of œRenQing

Means human feelings. But more complicated “
àœa system of ethics that guides and regulates one’s behavior when dealing with others within one’s guanxi network
àbased on certain basic rules and norms such as reciprocity and sharing 
àknows RenQing or doesn’t’

 The Principle of Reciprocity
àobligation of giving, receiving and returning gifts. Cannot refuse
à implications. Refuse gift = clear gesture not interested in that relationship. Choose the proper gift
à that exists in the social rules and hierarchy.
àif it’s too flashy
àcan be considered offensive. So must be proper. “
àevery social context is different. Delayed return
àwhen you practice Guanxi
àyou don’t immediately return a gift
àseen as not very proper.
àyou take note of it for the next time you visit. You don’t pull out something immediately in that moment

Principle of Sharing: very important, part of RenQing
àobligated to share resources within your networks. Very important for GuanXi practice. In China, sharing secrets is very famous.
àinitiating relationships. Hard for men to do business in China if they don’t’ drink or smoke becausei t’s kind of expected as form of creating social bond and relationship.
àcarry 2 packs, one is for yourself one is for show. Sharing food is also very important.
à œfamily style
à use chopsticks to share, don’t need serving spoons.

The principle of Face: give recipient face. Status and recognition.
àfailure to show up and bring gifts
àdo harm to person there.



4. The Art of Doing GuanXi

A( between two parties who are not total strangers

b) constant maintenance of the relationship in order to have an effective guanxi relationship.
àcan’t just do it once and drop cold. Need constant cultivation
à in an endless cycle 

c) choosing proper gifts

If really want to get something done and don’t know the person, get someone who does know that person to introduce you guys. Grad students always feel compelled to bring something to their professors
à constant gift giving going on.

5. Functions of GuanXi

1) Economic: very important in both city and countryside. In countryside when you have large guanxi network
àcan rely on them for mutual assistance
àrely on friends within gift exchange network to help
à people prefer to work for friends free labor
àdon’t want to get paid
àjust you owe me when I need a favor.

2) Social Function: social mechanism
à especially under socialism
à if had this social circle
àunder famine could survive
àget other kinds of social help
àgain social prestige and face from guanxi circle
àpeople see how many people actually come to celebrate.

3) Political: those who need certain favors (provide gifts or money)
àThose who monopolize resources (provide favors/services)-
à create hierarchy, asymmetric. The flow of gift giving isn’t always fair/ equal
à villagers vs their urban relatives. When rural relatives  go to urban cities
àlook for their urban relatives for help. For political purposes when want to get certain favors done ” >, and create a situation of debt and expect a return over timeCorruption is very clear.
àgive smaller gift for small favors.
àgets tricky how you define that because sometimes they don’t do anything for you, just take your gift.

You have to be able to deal with both. Some business people westerners they’re very idealistic
àas long as I follow the rules I’ll get things done/ be fine. But they’re wrong. In certain areas, guanxi is still very important
àespecially in state owned job. Boundaries between corruption and gift-giving and how important it is in Chinese society and how it still plays a certain role.


How can this thing be useful, be of value. After you have your paper topic already
àyou should make notes every time after you do a reading
à in relation to your topic
à this author has a particular way of thinking
àbut I would read this moment a different way
àI would use the this -author’s way to think about can also use it in economics.
Use readings to support exam essay questions.Gonna have to read the readings. He doesn’t’ care about general point of author
àhe cares about how you use what you get from the reading. Should be able to identify the author of the reading or title. Don’t’ need to memorize authorsnames but he needs to be able to recognize the reading you’re using. 

Why could anthropologists be interested in gift giving?

They have been interested in forms of exchange outside the capital. The way you interact with people and the way you give gifts
à helps form their identity.
àwho people are and how they interact with others. -> securing not only resources but also yourself.

How you think about gift giving
à as exchange, or corruption, or unfairness or mechanism for cultivating relationship, need to see what they’re effecting/changing. We shouldn’t be making broad generalizations about people and their behaviors.

We’re telling stories.
àdocumenting and describing. Need to interpret moments -> this reading claims something broad but if you actually think about this one moment in your reading, not as corruption but as something else
àoffers a different interpretation

Gift giving same as buying and selling? Are they different?
àlook at article.

Gift giving vs. Buying/selling