Guanxi social-network ties: Predicting graduate employment with internship host-organisations in China

Keywords: Work-Integrated Learning, internships, graduate employment, social-networking, Guanxi, China


Globally internships are utilized to enhance the university learning experience and improve graduate employment. The expanding application of internships in the graduate recruitment and selection process has traditionally received less attention in the literature, and whilst this trend has crossed national borders, the transferability of this practice has largely been assumed rather than empirically substantiated. Hence, this study investigates how a culturally specific form of social-networking, namely guanxi, impacts on employment outcomes from internships, for graduates within the Chinese context. This study involved the collection of longitudinal data at two time intervals from intern-supervisor dyads (N=303), in order to determine the role of guanxi in predicting the conversion of an intern into an employee with their internship host-organisation. These findings highlight the role of cultural context in shaping and potentially undermining desired graduate employment outcomes from Work-Integrated Learning initiatives such as internships.


Ahmed, I., Ismail, W. K. W., & Amin, S. M. (2014). Guanxi network and leader member exchange: The impetus for employee creative involvement. Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration, 6(1), 64–77.

Arthur, W., Glaze, R. M., Villado, A. J., & Taylor, J. E. (2009). Unproctored Internet-based tests of cognitive ability and personality: Magnitude of cheating and response distortion. Industrial and Organisational Psychology, 2(1), 39–45.

Bae, J., Rowley, C., & Sohn, T.-W. (2012). Managing Korean business: Organisation, culture, human resources and change. London: Routledge.

Barbalet, J. (2017a). Dyadic characteristics of guanxi and their consequences. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 47(3), 332–347.

Barbalet, J. (2017b). Guanxi (Chinese networks). In The Wiley‐Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Theory (pp. 1-3). Wiley Online Library: John Wiley & Sons.

Beenen, G., & Mrousseau, D. M. (2010). Getting the most from MBA internships: Promoting intern learning and job acceptance. Human Resource Management, 49(1), 3–22.

Beenen, G., & Pichler, S. (2014). Do I really want to work here? Testing a model of job pursuit for MBA interns. Human Resource Management, 53(5), 661–682.

Bian, Y. (1994). Guanxi and the allocation of urban jobs in China. The China Quarterly, 140, 971–999.

Bian, Y. (1997). Bringing strong ties back in: Indirect ties, network bridges, and job searches in China. Americian Sociological Reveiw, 62(3), 366–385.

Bian, Y., & Ang, S. (1997). Guanxi networks and job mobility in China and Singapore. Social Forces, 75(3), 981-1005.

Bian , Y., & Huang, X. (2009). Network resources and job mobility in China's transitional economy. In L. Keister (Ed.), Work and organisation in China after thirty years of transition research in the sociology of work. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing.

Bridges, C., & Villemez, W. (1986). Informal hiring and income in labour market. Americian Sociological Reveiw, 62, 574–582.

Brislin, R. W. (1981). Translation and content analysis of oral and written material. In H. C. Triandis & J. W. Berry (Eds.), Handbook of cross cultural Psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 389–444). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Burt, R. S. (1992). Structural holes: The social structure of competition. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership Historical Research Reference in Entrepreneurship, Available at SSRN:

Business Industry and Higher Education Collaboration Council. (2007). Graduate employability skills.

Chen, C. C., Chen, X.-P., & Huang, S. (2013). Chinese Guanxi: An intergartive reveiw and new directions for future research. Management and Organisation Reveiw, 9(1), 167–207.

Chen, C. C., Chen, Y. R., & Xin, K. (2004). Guanxi practices and trust in management: A procedural justice perspective. Organisational Science, 15(2), 200–209.

Chen, X. P., & Chen, C. C. (2004). On the intricacies of the Chinese guanxi: A process model of guanxi development. Asia Pacific Jounal of Managment, 21(3), 305–324.

Cheung, C.-K., & Gui, Y. (2006). Job referral in China: The advantages of strong ties. Human Relations, 59(6), 847–872.

Chou, S. Y., Han, B., & Zhang, X. (2014). Effect of guanxi on Chinese subordinates' work behaviors: A conceptual framework. Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration, 6(1), 18–35.

Chow, I. H.-S. (2004). The characteristics of Chinese personal ties (Guanxi): Evidence from Hong Kong. Organisation Studies, 25(7), 1075–1093.

Clarke, M. (2018). Rethinking graduate employability: The role of capital, individual attributes and context. Studies in Higher Education, 43(11), 1923–1937.

Cook, S. J., Parker, R. S., & Pettijohn, C. E. (2004). The perceptions of interns: A longitudinal case study. Journal of Education for Business, 79(3), 179–185.

D'abate, C. P., Youndt, M. A., & Wenzel, K. E. (2009). Making the most of an internship: An empirical study of internship satisfaction. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 8(4), 527–539.

Day, R. (2005). An empirical investigation of the predictors of self and other reported marketability: Looking beyond human capital. University of South Florida, Florida

Dessinger, T. (2006). The German ‘philosophy’ of linking academic and work based learning in higher education: The case of ‘vocational academies’. Journal or Vocational Education and Training, 52(4), 605–626.

Ferguson, J., & Sonnenschein, K. (2020). Comparing Australian graduate employees’ ‘use of connections’ and Chinese ‘sea-turtle’ graduate employees’ use of ‘guanxi’. Australian Journal of Career Development, 29(1), 24–35.

Gault, J., Leach, E., & Duey, M. (2010). Effects of business internships on job marketability: The employers ’ perspective. Education and Training, 52(1), 76–88.

Granovetter, M. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360–1380.

Granovetter, M. (1995). Getting a job: A study of contacts and careers (2 ed.). Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Guthrie, D. (1998). The declining significance of Guanxi in China's economic transition. The China Quarterly, 154, 254–282.

Guthrie, D. (2002). Information asymmetries and the problem of perception: The significance of structural position in accessing the importance of Guanxi in China. In T. Gold, D. Guthrie, & D. Wank (Eds.), Social connections in China: Institutions, culture, and the changing nature of Guanxi (pp. 37–55). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hempel, C. G. (1965). Aspects of scientific explanation: And other essays in the philosophy of science. Washington: The Free Press.

Hickson, D. J., Hinings, C. R., McMillian, C. J., & Schwitter, J. P. (1974). The culture-free context of organisation structure: A tri-nation comparision. Sociology, 8(1), 59–80.

Hofstede, G., & Hofstede, G. J. (2005). Cultures and organisations: Software of the mind. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hulin, C. L. (1991). Adaptation, persistence, and commitment in organisation. In M. D. Dunnette & L. M. Hough (Eds.), Handbook of industrial and organisational psychology (2nd ed., pp. 445–505). California: Consulting Psychologists Press.

Hwang, K. K. (1987). Face and favor: The Chinese power game. American Journal of Sociology, 92(4), 944–974.

Hwang, K. K. (2004). Social connections in China: Institutions, culture, and the changing nature of guanxi. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 33(5), 572–573.

Inceoglu, I., Selenko, E., McDowall, A., & Schlachter, S. (2019). (How) Do work placements work? Scrutinizing the quantitative evidence for a theory-driven future research agenda. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 110(B), 317–337.

Jackson, D. (2014). Testing a model of undergraduate competence in employability skills and its implications for stakeholders. Journal of Education and Work, 27(2), 220–242.

Jackson, D. (2018). Developing graduate career readiness in Australia: Shifting from extra-curricular internships to Work-Integrated Learning. International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, 19(1), 23–35.

Jacobs, J. B. (1979). A preliminary model of particulistic ties in Chinese political alliances: Kan-ch'ing and Kuan-hsi in a rural Taiwanese township. The China Quarterly, 78(2), 237–273.

Khampirat, B., & McRae, N. (2016). Developing global standards framework and quality integrated models for cooperative and work-integrated education programs. Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 17(4), 349–362.

Lin, N. (1982). Social resources and instrumental action. In P. V. Marsden & N. Lin (Eds.), Social structure and network analysis (pp. 131-145). California: Sage.

Luo, Y., Huang, Y., & Wang, S. L. (2012). Guanxi and organisational performance: A meta-analysis. Management and Organisation Reveiw, 8(1), 139–172.

Luo, Y. D. (2000). Guanxi and business. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co.

Macan, T. (2009). The employment interview: A review of current studies and directions for future research. Human Resource Management Review, 19(3), 203–218.

Montgomery, J. (1992). Job search and network composition: Implications of the strength-of-weak-ties hypothesis. American Sociological Reveiw, 57, 586– 596.

Nagle, L., Lannon, J., & McMahon, J. (2018). Integrating formal learning into work-integrated learning to create a semi-formal environment. International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, 19(2), 181–191.

National Association of College and Employers (NACE). (2018). 2018 Internship & Co-op Survey 2018 National Association of College and Employers (NACE).

Newman, A., Rose, P. S., & Teo, S. T. (2016). The role of participative leadership and trust‐based mechanisms in eliciting intern performance: Evidence from China. Human Resource Management, 55(1), 53–67.

Posthuma, R. A., Morgeson, F. P., & Campion, M. A. (2002). Beyond employment interview validity: A comprehensive narrative review of recent research and trends over time. Personnel Psychology, 55(1), 1–81.

Rebick, M. E. (2000). The Importance of networks in the market for university graduates in Japan: A longitudinal analysis of hiring patterns. Oxford Economic Papers, 52(3), 471–496.

Ren, S., & Chadee, D. (2017a). Ethical leadership, self-efficacy and job satisfaction in China:Tthe moderating role of guanxi. Personnel Review, 46(2), 371–388.

Ren, S., & Chadee, D. (2017b). Is guanxi always good for employee self-development in China? Examining non-linear and moderated relationships. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 98, 108–117.

Resick, C. J., Baltes, B. B., & Shantz, C. W. (2007). Person-organisation fit and work-related attitudes and decisions: Examining interactive effects with job fit and conscientiousness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 1446–1455.

Rose, P. (2015). Leveraged guanxi in employment acquisition: Scale development and validation. Asian Social Science, 11(10), 19–31.

Rose, P. (2018a). Internships in China: Exploring contextual perspectives. Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, 8(4), 438–450.

Rose, P. (2020a). Work-Integrated Learning in context: A South Korean perspective. International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, 21(2), 131–143.

Rose, P. S. (2018b). The intern to employee career transition: An outsiders perception of insider status. Journal of Career Development, 45(6), 566–579.

Rose, P. S. (2018c). Internships in China: exploring contextual perspectives. Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, 8(4), 438-450

Rose, P. S. (2019). Work Integrated Learning in context: A Korean Contextual Perspective European Assoaication of Mangement Scholors 36th Anual Conference, Dornberg, Austria.

Rose, P. S. (2020b). Work-integrated learning in context: A South Korean perspective. International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, 21(2), 131–143.

Rose.P. (2018). The intern to employee career transition: An outsiders perception of insider status. Journal of Career Development, 45(6), 566–579.

Rowley, C., Benson, J., & Warner, M. (2004). Towards an Asian model of human resource management? A comparative analysis of China, Japan and South Korea. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 15(4-5), 917–933.

Rynes, S. L. (Ed.). (1991). Recruitment, job choice, and post-hire consequences: A call for new research directions. In M.D. Dunnette & L.M. Hough (Eds.), Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology (p. 399–444). Consulting Psychologists Press.

Shields, R. (2013). Globalization and international student mobility: A network analysis. Comparative Education Review, 57(4), 609–636.

Teichler, U. (2017). Internationalisation trends in higher education and the changing role of international student mobility. Journal of international Mobility 5(1), 177–216.

Thornton III, G. C., & Gibbons, A. M. (2009). Validity of assessment centers for personnel selection. Human Resource Management Review, 19(3), 169–187.

Tsui, A., & Farh, J.-L. (1997). Where guanxi matters: Relational demography and guanxi in the Chinese context. Work and Occupations, 24(1), 56–79.

Tsui, A. S. (2004). Contributing to global management knowledge: A case for high quality indigenous research. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 21(4), 491–513.

Tsui, A. S. (2007). From homogenization to pluralism: International management research in the academy and beyond. Academy of Management Journal, 50(6), 1353–1364.

Van de Ven, A. H., & Jing, R. (2012). Indigenous mangement research in China from an engaged scholarship perspective. Managemennt and Organisation Reveiw, 8(1), 123–137.

Walder, A. G. (1986). Communist neo-traditionalism: Work and authority in Chinese industry. California: University California Press.

Waldinger, R. (1996). Still the promised city: African-Americans and new immigration in postindustrial New York. New york: Harvard University Press.

Whetzel, D. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2009). Situational judgment tests: An overview of current research. Human Resource Management Review, 19(3), 188–202.

Xiao, Z., & Tsui, A. S. (2007). When brokers may not work: The cultural contingency of social capital in Chinese high-tech firms. Administrative Science Quarterly, 52(1), 1–31.

Xin, K. R., & Pearce, J. L. (1996). Guanxi: Connections as substutute for formal institutional support. Academy of Management Journal, 39(6), 1641–1658.

Yang, C. F. (Ed.). (1997). Psycho-cultural foundations of informal group: The issues of loyalty, sincerity, and trust. Cambridge MA: Cambridge University Press.

Yang, X., Feng, Y., Meng, Y., & Qiu, Y. (2019). Career adaptability, work engagement, and employee well-being among Chinese employees: The role of guanxi. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1029.

Zang, X. (2003). Network resources and job search in urban China. Journal of Sociology, 39(2), 115–129.

Zegwaard, K. (Ed.). (2019a). Cooperative education in the Asian region: Future development and direction. London: Routledge.

Zegwaard, K. E. (2012). Publishing cooperative and work-integrated education literature. The Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 13(4), 181–193.

Zegwaard, K. E. (2019b). Cooperative education in the Asian region: Future development and direction. In Y. Tanaka & K. Zegwaard, (Eds.), Cooperative and work-integrated education in Asia: History, present and future issues (Ch. 10). London: Routledge.

Zhang, Y., & Zhang, Z. (2006). Guanxi and organisational dynamics in China: A link between individual and organisational levels. Journal of Business Ethics, 67, 375–392.

Zhao, H., & Liden, R. C. (2011). Internship: A recruitment and selection perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(1), 221.

Zottoli, M. A., & Wanous, J. P. (2000). Recruitment source research: Current status and future directions. Human Resource Management Reveiw, 10(4), 353–382.

How to Cite
Rose, P. (2020). Guanxi social-network ties: Predicting graduate employment with internship host-organisations in China. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 11(1), 81-92.