1st Edition

Chinese Social Networks in an Age of Digitalization Liquid Guanxi

By Anson Au Copyright 2024
    166 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Chinese Social Networks in an Age of Digitalization investigates the impact of digital media on the traditional Chinese model of social interaction, trust-building, and social capital, known as guanxi. Guanxi is a system of cultural and psychological rules of networking that orders every interaction in China, from the labor market, to politics, to business, and even law. It is the lifeblood of the nation and nearly just as old. But how has guanxi kept pace with the modern rapids of digitalization?

    This book is the first to examine how the rise of social networking sites is transforming guanxi in everyday networking in China, home to the largest population of users worldwide and nearly universal adoption in the nation. This monograph argues that digitalization is making guanxi liquid: that social and geographical boundaries are being melted away – and with it, people are experiencing a newfound liberation in how they network, trust, and feel toward others. Au asserts that Chinese modernity itself is transforming into what it calls a digital agora, a new intermediary space between the public and private spheres that balances obligations to both realms.

    The book offers researchers and students a window into how digitalization is changing how people in guanxi fundamentally think about who to trust, how to interact and compose themselves, and what it takes to socially survive in a rapidly advancing age of digitalization.

    1.Digitalization in China 2.Liquid Guanxi: Rewriting the Rules of Networking 3.Liquid Guanxi and Homophily: New Rules of Tie-building 4. Liquid Guanxi and Social Currency Exchanges: New Rules of Tie-Maintenance  5. Liquid Guanxi and Emotionality: New Rules of Tie-Activation 6. Liquid Guanxi and Social Support: New Rules of Proximity and Information Flow 7. Liquid Guanxi and Chinese Modernity: Toward a Digital Agora


    Anson Au is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He is an award-winning author of over forty research articles and three monographs. His research focuses on economic sociology, social networks, digitalization, and professions and organizations, with a regional focus on East Asia.

    "Liquid Guanxi offers an innovative and much-needed analysis of how technology spurs social change. Through a variety of methodological approaches, Au demonstrates how unique historical and cultural features of China set out a distinctive national orientation toward social media. Yet, the rapid proliferation of digital networking has been at work transforming ancient, fundamental elements of Chinese social structure. Au’s subtle and sophisticated observations give us new theoretical tools for a fast-changing world and bring forth a highly original perspective on China’s future." Markus Schafer, Associate Professor of Sociology, Baylor University

    "Drawing on interviews with youth in Hong Kong and statistical evidence from the Chinese General Social Survey, this book provides an insightful analysis of the ways in which guanxi operates in contemporary China in the age of social media. With the concept liquid guanxi, Au offers readers a fascinating look at the impact of digitalization on traditional cultural practices and social ties. With its innovative theoretical arguments and mixed-method analysis, Chinese Social Networks in an Age of Digitalization is a must-read for scholars and anyone interested in the intersection of technology, culture, and social networks in China today."

    Sida Liu, Professor of Law and Sociology, University of Hong Kong, Author of Criminal Defense in China: The Politics of Lawyers at Work

    "This book provides deep insights about how digital technologies and social media transform Chinese society. Anson Au leverages by far the richest and most detailed available data to offer novel and surprising findings about various areas of social life reshaped by digital technologies and social media in modern China. A must-read for anyone interested in media research, information technology, and Chinese society and economy." 

     Angelina Grigoryeva, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Toronto