xi is not limited to China.
In the West we have "the old boys club", meaning that if you went
to the right university, joined the right fraternity, or became
famous in the right way you will be welcomed into the social elite
and your life becomes very easy. This is why men who went to
Harvard want their sons to go to Harvard, so that they can join
There are different attitudes toward this. My culture, the
Protestant work ethic culture, despises the old boys club. We
don't respect a person who got their position through influence.
Many people think that using their position to help a
son or daughter will only make them weak, and will make them lose
motivation and ability. Many business people in my culture will
refuse to use influence to help a relative get ahead, even if
helping would be easy and painless for all involved. They want a
society that is a meritocracy, a society where a person gets a
promotion because he or she deserves it.
Usually this does not mean that a rich person won't
help a relative get a loan, or solve a financial problem. (My
ex-wife and I helped our son buy his first house, for example.)
But using influence to get a relative a promotion, or a job, is
considered immoral. It's called nepotism, and we don't like
People from another culture might look at such a person and wonder
how they could be so heartless. Don't they love their family?
I must say that I much prefer to live in a meritocracy, and think
that nepotism and racism are wrong. But this is wired into our
DNA, and we're not going to get rid of it. So this means that a
person without guanxi must work harder and smarter than those who
think they were born lucky.
____________, I know in my heart that lacking guānxi is actually a
great advantage. When you have a success, you will know that it
is yours, and that you don't really owe it to anybody. Imagine
how you would feel if you had to credit every success to a
relative, and feel that you didn't really deserve anything you
got. Would that make you happy?
And success is still possible, even without guan xi. Your talents
and abilities will be recognized by those who value people for
what they are, not for who they have in their family. So take
heart. Don't be bitter. Pity the poor kid who thinks he has it
made because his father has influence. Someday he'll be a bloated
and burned out alcoholic, and you will be a man who is proud of
all his achievements.