Author’s Note: I’m 100% supportive of strong family bonds and filial piety. The rest of this article is not intended as a slam against traditional expectations within a family, but it is intended to get Westerners thinking about “guanxi” differently.(Chinese readers and friends, please comment on this below.)
When I have a chat with friends, family, or even strangers about The Chinese Way of doing things, the conversation never fails to include the word “relationships.” But using guanxi to get things done is not all it may seem on the surface. It’s not just about friends helping friends… and when you’ve truly used guanxi to get something done you will likely feel different about that friendship afterward.
The other day I found myself in a taxi on the way to pick up my girlfriend. It was raining heavily and a we were on the way to the Zhuhai North light rail station. I knew the taxi was a little grimy inside and the driver was smoking a cigarette, so I thought I should dump it before picking her up. At first I thought, “maybe I should tell him a lie to make a stop somewhere so that I can politely switch taxis. After all, this is China and this kind of excuse should be common to save the other person’s (the driver’s) face.”
I texted my girlfriend to call me and ask me to stop somewhere in order to make the deceit believable. Her reply was something like “What are you talking about?” She was confused, at first and didn’t go along with the plot.