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Understanding networking in China and the Arab World: Lessons for international managers

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Purpose ‐ To explore the implications of internationalisation for guanxi and wasta and the role of trust, family and favours in underpinning these traditional models of networking. The paper also draws some implications for management development professionals and trainers. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The argument is based on relevant literature and cases, and the authors' own knowledge acquired through research in China over 8 years and the Arab World over 25 years. The Chinese research involved analysis of company reports, informal conversations and semi-structured interviews conducted with almost 100 interviewees including Western expatriate managers and local Chinese managers between 1998 and 2005 in Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou and Wuxi. The Arab research also involved analysis of company reports and informal conversations, as well as interviews and surveys conducted throughout the Middle Eastern region, including the GCC states, Algeria, Jordan, Libya, Palestine and Yemen. Findings ‐ The research finds differences in the continuing relevance of guanxi and wasta and suggests that while guanxi is adapting to internationalisation, wasta remains traditional in its influence on business and social life. Practical implications ‐ The paper suggests the need for increased training of international managers to adjust to culture-specific networking in China and the Arab World and provides some practical guidelines to managers to assist their intercultural effectiveness in these two regions of the world. Originality/value ‐ The research is important in that it extends knowledge of traditional networking practices in exploring the Arab World which is hitherto under-researched and in undertaking comparative examination of China and the Arab World which is also a new area of research.
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Keywords: China; Cross-cultural studies; Globalization; International managers; Middle East; Networking

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2006

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