China’s digital ventures are becoming increasingly popular on the global landscape, attracting significant attention on their digital innovation ecosystem; meanwhile, the reduction of communication cost and the convergence of digital technology are distributing the control over innovation activities and amplifying the knowledge heterogeneity, inducing a serious challenge. Facing this problem, collaborative knowledge activities could provide a solution, but in China, there is very limited under-standing of this due to the existence of “guanxi”- influential relationships in Chinese culture. To address the gap, we adopt a mixed-methods research approach to explore how guanxi and structural holes affect knowledge acquisition and knowledge integration among Chinese digital ventures at different stages in doubly distributed innovation networks. Our findings indicate that guanxi fosters the acquisition and integration of knowledge by creating a buffer zone, around which knowledge re-sources flow in the form of favor exchange, ‘renqing’ (favor) accumulation, and ‘mianzi’ (face) preservation. Hence we make three contributions: 1) recognizing guanxi as a shock absorber to lessen the detrimental impacts induced by excessive structural holes situated in innovation networks; 2) identifying the significance of integrators in Chinese culture; 3) uncovering when and what type of guanxi is utilized the most for China’s digital ventures.

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