Exploring Guanxi in a Cross-Cultural Context

The Case of Cantonese-Speaking Chinese in Johannesburg

in Journal of Chinese Overseas
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Abstract

Using a case study of recently arrived Cantonese-speaking migrants, this article examines the role of guanxi in shaping Chinese newcomers’ economic activities and opportunities in South Africa. In Johannesburg, Cantonese-speaking migrants tend to be employed in restaurant and fahfee (gambling) sectors, which are partially inherited from the early generations of South African Chinese. Through narratives and stories, this article reveals that Cantonese newcomers often strengthen personal and employment relationships through the practice of guanxi, but that doing so can also constrain their employment decisions. Moreover, the ambiguous boundary between the act of bribery and the practice of guanxi may facilitate Chinese participation but can also result in the victimization of the newcomers.

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