MOR Special Issue CFP ‘New Insights of Guanxi and Social Network Studies in Contemporary Organizations’


Management and Organization Review

Special Issue on

‘New Insights of Guanxi and Social Network Studies in Contemporary Organizations’

Guest Editors

Song Wang,1 Ronald Burt,2, 3 Ning Li,4 and Xu Huang5
1Zhejiang University, 2University of Chicago, 3Bocconi University, 4Tsinghua University, and 5Hong Kong Baptist University

PDW submission deadline: August 15, 2024 
Manuscript submission deadline: February 28, 2025

Special Issue Theme Background

Research has consistently demonstrated that guanxi and social networks yield substantial advantages for individuals (e.g., Burt, 1992, 2004; Mannucci & Perry-Smith, 2022), groups (e.g., Reagans & Zuckerman, 2001; Reagans, Zuckerman, & McEvily, 2004), and organizations (e.g., Burt & Burzynska, 2017; Peng & Luo, 2000) across various contexts, spanning from developed institutions (Borgatti, Brass, & Halgin, 2014) to transforming economies (Karhunen, Kosonen, McCarthy, & Puffer, 2018). This extensive body of knowledge encompasses diverse research methodologies, including inductive studies (e.g., Vissa, 2012), experimental investigations (e.g., Perry-Smith, 2014), surveys (e.g., Grosser, Venkataramani, & Labianca, 2017), archival data analyses (e.g., Tzabbar & Vestal, 2015), and the innovative use of unobtrusive data and complex algorithms (e.g., Shi, Zhang, & Hoskisson, 2019).

Despite the considerable progress in understanding their important impact, ongoing developments persist, particularly focusing on the following thematic areas: new perspectives of guanxi and social networks (Beane & Anthony, 2023; Chen & Ren, 2023), the implications of new contexts such as artificial intelligence (AI) and digitalization (Beane, 2019; Leonardi, 2014), comparative studies (Bian, 2017; Burt & Opper, 2024), psychological foundations (Casciaro, Barsade, Edmondson, Gibson, Krackhardt, & Labianca, 2015; Tasselli, Kilduff, & Menges,2015), networking and brokering (Lee, Quintane, Lee, Ruiz, & Kilduff, 2023; Porter & Woo, 2015), dynamics and formation processes (Chen, Mehra, Tasselli, & Borgatti, 2022; Zaheer & Soda, 2009), the connection between micro-level processes and macro-level phenomena (Wang, Dong, Si, & Dou, 2017), and macro-level applications(Luo, Huang, & Wang, 2012). In response to these ongoing debates and to further advance the field, Management and Organization Review (MOR) is calling for submissions that can strategically leverage these themes (specifically defined below) to address novel research questions, explore emerging phenomena, and develop new theories and constructs, with the aspiration of making substantial contributions to both theoretical developments and empirical extensions in the domain of guanxi and social network studies.

Scope of the Special Issue

The key feature of this special issue is to encourage scholars to explore the new insights of guanxi and social network studies in contemporary organizations in China and comparable global contexts. Given this focus, we specifically define the scope of the special issue below.

New Perspectives of Guanxi and Social Networks

It has been decades since guanxi and social networks were proposed, deeply rooted in traditional Chinese cultural and social embeddedness (Bian, 1997; Granovetter, 1985; Hwang, 1987). Conventional wisdom, such as face and favor, weak ties, and structural holes, have been recognized as pivotal components, and guanxi and social network studies have continued to evolve. One notable conceptualization comes from Chen and Ren (2023), who develop the concept of indirect cronyism. In this phenomenon, managers exhibit favoritism to indirect guanxihu subordinates who have informal and personal connections with a third party (e.g., another manager). Drawing on the indirect reciprocity logic embedded in social exchange theory, Chen and Ren (2023) identify two underlying motives to explain why managers engage in indirect cronyism: fulfilling their felt obligation to favor the indirect guanxihu subordinates and strengthen their own guanxi with the third party.

The advent of digital technology (AI, blockchain, cloud computing, big data, etc.) has ushered in a transformative era, fundamentally reshaping modern interactions, lifestyles, and working environments (Glikson, & Woolley, 2020; Kellogg, Valentine, & Christin, 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated their reliance on online communication, exerting a profound influence on both personal and professional spheres. Improved communication technology has facilitated the use of bridge supervision (Burt & Wang, 2022), in which the connection between manager and boss is a network bridge between separate social worlds, so manager and boss can easily interact by audio or onscreen as a pair of people disconnected from surrounding colleagues. Managers operating under bridge supervision exclude the boss from their work discussions and are conservative in expressing emotion. Beyond technological transformation, social and societal changes (virtual world, de-socialization, Generation Z, aging, lying-flat, etc.) also generate strong implications for guanxi and social networks. These shifts in social dynamics and attitudes contribute to an evolving landscape that necessitates continuous exploration and understanding.

In this complex landscape, a pertinent question arises: are there new perspectives of guanxi and social networks emerging? The intersection of traditional social structures with the capabilities of AI and digital platforms may have given rise to novel forms of connectivity and relationship-building. Examining the new perspectives of guanxi and social networks is essential to understanding interpersonal dynamics in a rapidly changing socio-technological environment. Meanwhile, with the digital revolution and societal changes, do these longstanding relational concepts still wield considerable influence, adapting and manifesting in unique ways? Exploring their contemporary relevance provides valuable insights into how these traditional socio-cultural elements persist or transform in response to the challenges and opportunities in the new contexts. In addition, unconventional big data sources and the utilization of computational modeling and algorithms can accelerate the exploration of novel research inquiries and theory building in guanxi and social network research.

The Comparative Significance of Guanxi and Social Networks

Research on guanxi stands as the earliest and most influential contribution from Chinese philology to the mainstream management literature. Guanxi, broadly recognized as a valuable, particularistic relationship (Chen & Chen, 2004; Tsui & Farh, 1997), has earned its distinct place, differentiating it from strong ties in network theory. Scholars have extensively delved into the disparities between guanxi and social networks, scrutinizing their composition, mechanisms, and outcomes (Chen, Chen, & Huang, 2013).

In the organizational literature, two discernible perspectives of guanxi emerge (Burt & Opper, 2024). The first is culturally inspired, highlighting guanxi as a unique interpersonal relationship and strategy (Tsui & Farh, 1997; Xin & Pearce, 1996), associating it with scarce resources and advantages (Luo, Huang, & Wang, 2012; Peng & Luo, 2000). The second, typical of social network research, examines the validity of the negative network closure-performance hypothesis, which is widely observed in the West (Burt, 1992, 2004; Kwon, Rondi, Levin, De Massis, & Brass, 2020). The majority of studies focusing on Chinese firms and their managers affirm a negative association between network closure and business success (Batjargal 2007, 2010; Burt, 2019). Burt and Burzynska’s (2017) meticulous analysis, based on several large-scale survey datasets from China, Europe, and the United States, reveal that identical measures of network brokerage significantly correlate with business success in Chinese and Western contexts. Meanwhile, the same measures of network closure robustly promote business trust in both contexts.

Nevertheless, cultural contingency arguments persist, striving for synthesis across the two perspectives. Notably, Xiao and Tsui (2007) highlight a negative association between brokerage and individual performance under collectivistic culture, attributing it to the unfavorable perception of individuals acting as brokers. This highlights the cultural nuances and the intricate dynamics of guanxi and social networks within specific cultural contexts. The distinctive socio-cultural and economic characteristics of China versus other contexts prompt inquiries into the universality of guanxi and social networks, exploring their general and unique merits and downsides at both individual and organizational levels (Batjargal, 2007, 2010). Given the stark methodological and aspirational differences between the guanxi versus social network analysis, bridging both perspectives is difficult yet promising. It would be reassuring for network scholars to validate the network-performance association controlling for guanxi ties. Guanxi scholars would benefit from an analytically tractable definition of guanxi (Burt & Opper, 2024). Additionally, it would be instructive for nuanced considerations in their application in cross-cultural comparative studies (Weiss, Salm, Muethel, & Hoegl, 2018).

An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Network–Psychological Integration 

Organizational network studies are construed along a continuum ranging from structural determinism to human agency (Casciaro, Gino, & Kouchaki, 2014). As the foundation of the traditional network view, structural determinism posits that individuals’ social structure is largely responsible for their outcomes (Burt, 1992; Mayhew, 1980). Within this view, classic network– psychological integration studies delve into the microfoundations of guanxi and social networks, exploring personality antecedents such as self-monitoring and the Big Five (e.g., Fang, Landis, Zhang, Anderson, Shaw, & Kilduff, 2015; Kleinbaum, Jordan, & Audia, 2015), proactive personality (Thompson, 2005), and risk aversion (Opper, Nee, & Holm, 2017).

In contrast with this traditional structuralism view, calls to bring individualism back (Tasselli & Kilduff, 2021) encourage a more thorough understanding of the agentic actions in networks, i.e., what individuals purposefully do to shape their network structure (Bensaou, Galunic, & Jonczyk-Sédès, 2014; Lee et al., 2023). There has been heightened attention on social networking research, encompassing conceptual definitions (Casciaro, Gino, & Kouchaki, 2014), measurements (Vissa, 2012), antecedents and consequences (Kuwabara, Hildebrand, & Zou, 2018), and dynamics and processes (Porter & Woo, 2015). How individuals initiate, build, and maintain relationships, and why they are motivated to perform networking with specific network contacts remain worthy of continued exploration.

Besides social networking, another theme seamlessly linking social structures and psychological processes is network cognition (Brands, 2013; Casciaro et al., 2015). Scholars have developed theoretical frameworks to elucidate how and why employees interpret or misinterpret their relationships in the workplace (Byron & Landies, 2020; Halgin, Borgatti, Mehra, Soltis, 2020). Furthermore, another increasing focus is on understanding the underlying causes and processes of network formation and dynamics (e.g., Chen, Mehra, Tasselli, & Borgatti, 2022; Clough & Piezunka, 2020). This ongoing discourse enriches our understanding of the intricate relationship between human agency, social structures, and their dynamics and impact on individual and organizational outcomes.

Sample Research Questions

We perceive numerous opportunities for expanding the existing literature on guanxi and social networks. Below is a brief description of potential research questions that are suitable for this special issue.

New Perspectives of Guanxi and Social Networks and Comparative Studies

1. Are there new perspectives of guanxi and social networks emerging? Do these constructs continue to exert significance in contemporary organizations?

2. Examining the comparable significance of guanxi and social networks. To what extent do guanxi and social networks differ in significance within the Chinese socio-cultural context and other comparative global contexts?

3. What are the general drawbacks of guanxi and social networks, such as over embeddedness, emotional labor, and information redundancy? What are the potential negative consequences specific to the Chinese socio-cultural context?

The Implications of New Technologies and Societal Changes for Guanxi and Social Networks

4. How do AI, digitalization, and other emerging technologies affect the formation and functions of guanxi and social networks across the individual, team, organizational, or ecosystem level?

5. What are the distinct characteristics and roles of online network? Are there innovative strategies and mechanisms for building, maintaining, and leveraging guanxi and networks via digital tools or platforms?

6. How are guanxi and social networks influenced by societal changes such as the virtual world, de-socialization, Generation Z, aging, lying-flat culture, and other relevant shifts?

7. How can machine learning analysis effectively leverage unobtrusive big data to build new theories? How can social relations modeling and mixed methods contribute to explore new phenomena in guanxi and social network studies?

The Microfoundations of Guanxi and Social Networks

8. What are the unique behavioral manifestations, antecedents, and implications of social networking approaches in contemporary organizational contexts?

9. What are the unique personality and cognition antecedents as well as underlying mechanisms that can deepen our understanding of the microfoundation of guanxi and social network studies?

10. When and why does network perception or misperception occur and what is their impact on organizations?

Guanxi, Social Networks, and Their Macro Applications

11. Investigating the dynamics of collective emergence. How do micro-level processes of guanxi and social networks contribute to the emergence of macro-level phenomena?

12. How do organizations proactively respond to changes in the new era, encompassing both opportunities and threats via guanxi and social networks?

13. What nuanced insights can be gained through the exploration of entrepreneurial networks, innovation networks, top management team networks, and other related spheres?

14. Any other topics in which empirical evidence on guanxi and social networks is involved.

Submission Guidelines

Manuscripts must be submitted electronically through MOR’s ScholarOne Manuscripts site at by February 28, 2025. Please ensure that the submission is identified as for the ‘New Paradigms of Guanxi and Social Network Studies in Contemporary Organizations’ special issue and prepared in accordance with MOR’s style guide. For any inquiries related to the special issue, please contact Prof. Song Wang at

Special Issue Workshop

A paper development workshop (PDW) will be conducted on September 28, 2024, which is specially designed for authors associated with the special issue. The PDW will be hosted at Zhejiang University, situated in the picturesque city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China. It is imperative to note that attendance and presentation at the workshop do not guarantee the acceptance of the paper for publication in the special issue. Similarly, attendance at the workshop is not a precondition for acceptance into the special issue. To successfully complete the PDW submission process, we kindly request authors to submit the full manuscript or a comprehensive version of the research plan to Professor Song Wang at by August 15, 2024. The workshop invitation letters will be issued around August 28, 2024.

Special Issue Guest Editors

Song Wang ( is Associate Professor of the School of Management, Zhejiang University. She was a Fulbright visiting scholar (2011–2012) at the Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a visiting scholar (2018–2019) in the Stanford Technology and Ventures Program, Stanford University. Her current research interests focus on social networking in digital contexts and human-AI teaming. Her publications have appeared in Academy of Management JournalJournal of Business EthicsManagement World, and Acta Psychologica Sinica, etc. She has also demonstrated excellence in teaching, earning the first prize in the Young Scholars’ Teaching Competition in Zhejiang Province and the Award for Teaching Excellence of Zhejiang University.

Ronald S. Burt ( is a Distinguished Professor at Bocconi University, and the CharlesM. Harper Leadership Professor of Sociology and Strategy at the University of Chicago. His work describes social networks creating advantage. In addition to computer software and research articles, his last three books include the one that proposed the concept of structural holes, Structural Holes (Harvard University Press, 1992), a broad review of links between network structure and performance, Brokerage and Closure (Oxford University Press, 2005), and argument and evidence on spillover from affiliation with advantaged others, Neighbor Networks (Oxford University Press, 2010). He currently co-edits the Oxford University Press series on Social Network Mechanisms(

Ning Li ( is the Flextronics Chair Professor in the Department of Leadership and Organization Management at Tsinghua University. Before joining Tsinghua, he was a Professor in the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship at The University of Iowa. He received a bachelor’s degree from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in management and received his PhD from Texas A&M University. His current research interests include big data in management, organizational network analysis, team collaboration, team leadership, and proactive phenomena in organizations.

Xu Huang ( is Professor and Associate Dean of the School of Business, Hong Kong Baptist University. He is also the Director of the MBA program and MSc Business Management Program of the School of Business. He received his PhD from the University of Groningen (the Netherlands), MA from Lancaster University (UK), and Honors Diploma from Lingnan University (Hong Kong). His research interests include leadership, power, proactive and abnormal work behaviors, employee well-being, cross-cultural psychology, and management issues in China. He has published more than 70 papers in international journals including Administrative Science QuarterlyAcademy of Management Journal, etc.


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