Comparing Chinese Guanxi with American Networking for Foreign-born Chinese Job Seekers in the U.S.

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Guanxi is a key term for the Chinese and Asian cultures. This paper compares the meaning and power of guanxi in the Chinese context with networking in the American context for job seeking purposes. Building upon Granovetter's well-known study on job search behaviors of white males, this research extends the degree to which his instruments apply across culture to Chinese minorities, across gender for both males and females, and across time in the Internet Age. Triangulating quantitative and qualitative data collected through systematic observation, questionnaire surveys, and in-depth interviews, this research analyzes the strength of personal networks and the value of guanxi for foreign-born Chinese jobseekers in the U.S. and compares its functionality in both Chinese and American contexts. The survey data show that personal network is the most effective means for foreign-born Chinese jobseekers. A total of 52.5% of the respondents found jobs via personal networks, and a majority found jobs through weak ties. Granovetter's argument on the strength of weak ties holds true in today's Internet Age, especially for minority Chinese jobseekers who grew up in a culture that values guanxi. In-depth interviews and systematic observation reveal that there are similarities and differences between the Chinese concept of guanxi and the American idea of networking. Differences concerning the potency of influence and depth of emotional attachment are discussed.

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