Cultural Extensions to Business Networks Research: Guanxi and Wasta

Roudaina Houjeir, Amna Khan, David Brennan, Peter Naude

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores the influence of cultural constructs on business-to-business relationship development from cultures other than the Global West, thereby assessing the extent to which the original IMP interaction model is readily applicable in other cultures. The specific focus is on guanxi from Chinese culture and wasta from Arab culture. Using qualitative data gathered in China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the paper identifies the differences and similarities between guanxi and wasta in the context of B2B relationships. Results show that both constructs are important in relationship management within their relevant cultural contexts. Many similarities are observed, for example with the importance of family connections as an antecedent and trust as a consequence of both guanxi and wasta. Both constructs are associated with ‘face’ and ‘face saving’. Nevertheless, significant nuanced differences are identified between the two cultural constructs. The study provides clarification as to the distinction between the two constructs and their importance to understand inter-firm relationships and networks (from the scientific perspective), and to manage relationships and networks (from the managerial perspective). Both constructs play an essential role in building trust in the Arab and Chinese worlds. Hence, business-to-business relationship managers from outside the Arab and Chinese worlds should pay particular attention to the nuances of local culture. Overseas managers working in Arab or Chinese business contexts will find it difficult to cultivate trust based on goodwill without understanding the background elements of Arab and Chinese culture.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business and Industrial Marketing
Publication statusSubmitted - 2020


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