Closely related concepts include that of , a measure which reflects the depth of feeling within an interpersonal relationship, , the moral obligation to maintain the relationship, and "", divided into the concepts of "mian" meaning social status and prestige, and , the idea of being perceived as a morally correct actor within society.
At its most basic, ''guānxi'' describes a personal connection between two people in which one is able to prevail upon another to perform a favor or service, or be prevailed upon. The two people need not to be of equal social status. ''Guānxi'' can also be used to describe a network of contacts, which an individual can call upon when something needs to be done, and through which he or she can exert influence on behalf of another. In addition, ''guānxi'' can describe a state of general understanding between two people: "he/she is aware of my wants/needs and will take them into account when deciding her/his course of future actions which concern or could concern me without any specific discussion or request".
The term is not generally used to describe relationships within a family, although ''guānxi'' obligations can sometimes be described in terms of an extended family. The term is also not generally used to describe relationships that fall within other well-defined societal norms . The relationships formed by ''guānxi'' are personal and not transferable.
When a ''guānxi'' network violates bureaucratic norms, it can lead to corruption, and ''guānxi'' can also form the basis of .
Someone is described as having ''good guānxi'' if their particular network of influence could assist in the resolution of the problem currently being spoken about.
The most common response to indicate acceptance of an apology in Standard Mandarin is ''méi guānxi'' which literally translated means "doesn't have ''guānxi'' ".
''Guānxi'' is most often used in the press when ''guānxi'' obligations take precedence over civic duties, leading to nepotism and cronyism
Similar concepts in other cultures
Sociologists have linked ''guanxi'' with the concept of social capital , and it has been exhaustively described in studies of Chinese economic and political behavior, including those listed below.
In Middle Eastern culture, "wasta" is a similar concept; in Italy, "raccomandato" and "raccomandazione" are similar concepts.
* by Ying Fan International Business Review, 11:5, 543-561, 2002.
*, scientific study on Guanxi in relation to business.
*, BBC article discussing the role of Guanxi in the modern governance of China.
* Wiki discussion about definitions of guanxi, developed by the publishers of .
*''Guanxi, The art of relationships'', by Robert Buderi, Gregory T. Huang, ISBN 0-7432-7322-2.