Firms in China, and in Asia-Pacific countries to a certain degree, cannot escape from two institutional characteristics of modern organizations: the uniquely Eastern practice of guanxi and the uniquely Western artifact of information technology. While both constructs have been extensively studied in organizational contexts, few have examined how these two constructs interact with each other and how such interaction impact organizational processes, norms, and other institutional properties. From the lens of structuration theory, we attempt to understand this interesting and important phenomenon. We submit that guanxi is neither a cultural artifact of the Chinese society, nor a product of weak institutions in shortage economies; rather, it is an outcome of structuration between the human agents who enact it and the institutional environment in which it is enacted, enabled or constrained by information technology. This structuration view of guanxi does not predict its ever lasting effect on Chinese business and society, nor does it foretell its demise in the global economy. However, it does provide a better explanation to the critical questions why guanxi is significant in certain firms but insignificant in others and how information technology enables and constrains the enactment of guanxi in organizational life.
Hu, Qing; Xiao, Jinghua; and Xie, Kang, "The Role of Guanxi in Information Technology Enabled Organizations: A Structuration Theory Perspective" (2013). PACIS 2013 Proceedings. 226.