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ASIAN STUDIES CONFERENCE JAPAN

Index

ASCJ Executive Committee
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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181
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Conferences
Inaugural conference
1998 conference

1999 conference June 26
2000 conference--planned
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Conference venue
Nearby hotels

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1999 conference June 26

Room 301

Abstract of Roundtable

Title: The Transformation of Social Networks (Guanxi) in China's Market Transition

Organizer: David L. Wank (Associate Professor of Sociology, Sophia University)

Moderator: Linda Grove (Professor of History, Sophia University)

Discussants: Thomas B. Gold (Assoc. Prof. of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley), Doug Guthrie (Assistant Professor of Sociology, New York University), Masaharu Hishida (Professor of Sociology, University of Shizuoka), Shigeto Sonoda (Professor of Sociology, Chuo University), David L. Wank

Abstract: One of the key questions regarding China's economic reform since the late 1970s is the consequences of expanding markets for the utility of personal ties. An earlier generation of analysts, most notably Jean Oi and Andrew Walder, have documented the personalistic social structure that grew up in the planned economy. Centralized distribution gave officials a monopoly on the allocation of goods and services. Citizens cultivated personal ties with officials to obtain access to these scarce resources. From their end, officials doled out these resources to beneft their family and friends and to ensure local supporters to assist them in implementing central policies and directives. These ties, referred to by the idioms of guanxixue (the "art of social relations" or "guanxi practice"), were particularistic and embedded in personal relationships of obligation and reciprocity.

The advent of economic reform in the 1980s has stimulated a lively debate among anthropologists, sociologists, and political scientists on the consequences of expanding market activity for guanxi practice. One the one hand some analysts maintain that the expansion of market-based activity leads to the declining utility of guanxi practice. They maintain that: markets give citizens access to resources that lie outside the purview of officialdom; exchange relations in the market economy increasingly depend on the quality of goods and services rather than personal obligations; the market economy institutionalizes new norms of legality that replace particularistic reciprocity. On the other hand, some analysts argue that market reform transforms the utility of guanxi practice rather than lead to its outright declining utility. They maintain that: the expansion of markets in a one-party state creates new administrative monopolies for officialdom even as their control over phytical assets and career opportunities declines; guanxi practice come to constitute a distinct institutional element of market activity and business organization; the utility of norms of obligation and personal reciprocity expands with along with markets.

Participants in the roundtable will exchange views on this debate and related issues. The view that market reforms expands the utility of guanxixue into emerging market activity, thereby amplifying this institution is found in: Mayfair Yang, "The Gift Economy and State Power in China," Comparative Studies in Society and History 1(1) 1989: 25-54 (a more extended argument can be found in Yangfs book Gifts, Favors, and Banquets (Ithica: Cornell University Press, 1994). The view that the expansion of market activity erodes the importance of guanxixue is found in Doug Guthrie: "The Declining Significance of Guanxi in China's Economic Transition," China Quarterly 154 (June 1998): 254-282.

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