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Guanxi dynamics and identity construction: An interpretive look at the Chinese professional service firms

Katarzyna Kosmala (Faculty of Business and Creative Industries, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, UK)
Chunyan Xian (Ernst & Young LLP Global, Liverpool, UK)

Critical Perspectives on International Business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 27 July 2011




This study aims to examine aspects of the construction of professional identity, based on an interpretative inquiry in two Chinese professional service firms in Beijing.


Data were gathered through participant observation, archival material and interviews. The interpretive nature of the research experience facilitated openness to the local field and avoidance of a heavy reliance on assumptions that derive from privileging the Western constructions of professional identity, where “I” (the researcher) am situated epistemologically.


Professionalism discourse, a powerful resource of ambiguity, becomes an arena where identity is “asserted” through organisational performance, incorporated in normative Western‐driven laws. Enacted professionalism appears consistent with the pursuit of an elevated Western image. The relationships with the clients, however, are embedded in guanxi dynamics and related accountabilities, reflecting the local ways of doing things.


Empirical material offers insights into professionalisation processes in Chinese firms, with a focus on the construction of professional identity, located within organisational micro‐dynamics.



Kosmala, K. and Xian, C. (2011), "Guanxi dynamics and identity construction: An interpretive look at the Chinese professional service firms", Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 202-223.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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