The Logic of Tong (Togetherness) or Why Guanxi Works in Chinese Societies?

Hoi Yan YAU, Heung Wah WONG

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


This article provides an analysis of the cultural meaning of guanxi (關係) in Chinese societies, specifically in the context of a workplace situation in Taiwan. Guanxi is a concept based on Confucian ethics, which was originally a positive concept connoting human closeness, has transformed into a manipulative and instrumentally used variant called “guanxi-practice”(關係學). The article argues that an effective way to understand the cultural meaning of guanxi is to examine the Chinese kinship system, which shares similarities with interpersonal relationships in Chinese culture. The guiding principle of Chinese familial ethics, tong (同), refers to members sharing the same breath who are expected to offer emotional and financial support in times of need. The study analyses the exchange of guanxi-work among men in Taiwanese society to clarify the logic of guanxi operation. The study aims to contribute to the broader discussion on the cultural meaning of guanxi in Chinese societies, explaining why guanxi can empower and entitle participants to seek favors and benefit from one another.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-181
Number of pages21
JournalTranslocal Chinese: East Asian Perspectives
Issue number2
Early online date21 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

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  • Chinese kinship
  • guanxi
  • guanxi practice
  • interpersonal relationship
  • renqing
  • tong (sense of togetherness)


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