The guanxi influence on occupational attainment in urban China

Yanjie Bian, Xianbi Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This article addresses a long-standing controversy about whether or not the influence of guanxi on occupational attainment has been on the decline during China’s market reforms. The authors argue that guanxi continuously plays an influential role in facilitating occupational attainment when China’s labor markets face a great deal of institutional uncertainty. A large-scale survey of job seekers shows that the number of Chinese job seekers who used guanxi contacts to secure employment increased from 40 percent in 1978 to 80 percent in 1999. Job seekers’ ties to guanxi contacts were predominantly strong rather than weak, and these ties were used to obtain both job information and the influence of guanxi favoritism. As compared to information gainers, influence gainers were significantly more satisfied with job outcomes, more satisfied with work relations, and better able to obtain soft-skill jobs when market reforms were deepening in the 1992–1999 period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-332
Number of pages26
JournalChinese Journal of Sociology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The survey analyzed in the article was financed by grants from Hong Kong’s Research Grants Committee (HKUST6052/98H) and China’s Social Science Foundation (11AZD022, 13&ZD177) to the first author, and a grant from the Outside Studies Program of La Trobe University to the second author supported data analysis and revision of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2015.


  • China
  • Guanxi
  • Network resources
  • Occupational attainment


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