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The value of guanxi for small vegetable farmers in China

Hualiang Lu (Management Studies Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands)
Jacques H. Trienekens (Management Studies Group, Wageningen University and Wageningen Expertise Centre for Chain and Network Studies, Wageningen, The Netherlands)
S.W.F. (Onno) Omta (Management Studies Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands)
Shuyi Feng (China Land Policy Centre, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China and Agricultural Economics and Rural Policy Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 18 April 2008




Following a guanxi value – buyer‐seller relationship quality – marketing behaviour scheme, this paper aims to explore how traditional guanxi supports small vegetable farmers in modern markets in China.


Fieldwork was performed in Jiangsu Province, PR China. A stratified random sample of 167 vegetable farmers provided data for empirical testing with partial least squares analysis.


The findings suggested that the value of guanxi networks is an antecedent to buyer‐seller relationship quality and marketing behaviour in China. Guanxi networks improve the quality of buyer‐seller relationships in terms of interpersonal trust and satisfaction. Buyer‐seller relationships influence smallholders' transaction relationships, their participation in modern markets and choice for formal contracts. Guanxi networks not only support Chinese small‐scale vegetable farmers to get access to modern high‐value markets (e.g. supermarkets and international markets), but also encourage informal transactions in the vegetable business.

Practical implications

Guanxi networks play a critical role in the modern marketing environment in China. Marketing strategies based on personal relationships should be further enhanced in order to increase participation of smallholders in modern markets.


Quantitative evaluation of the effects of the Chinese cultural embedded concept of guanxi in the Chinese agrifood sector fills in an important research gap.



Lu, H., Trienekens, J.H., Omta, S.W.F.(O). and Feng, S. (2008), "The value of guanxi for small vegetable farmers in China", British Food Journal, Vol. 110 No. 4/5, pp. 412-429.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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