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Trust-distrust balance: trust ambivalence in Sino-Western B2B relationships

Minna Jukka (School of Business and Management, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Lappeenranta, Finland)
Kirsimarja Blomqvist (School of Business and Management, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Lappeenranta, Finland)
Peter Ping Li (Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, China and Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark)
Chunmei Gan (School of Information Management, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China)

Cross Cultural & Strategic Management

ISSN: 2059-5794

Article publication date: 7 August 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore how Chinese and Finnish managers in cross-cultural supply-chain relationships evaluate their business partners’ trustworthiness and distrustworthiness.


Representatives of two Finnish companies and their Chinese and Finnish suppliers were interviewed to collect qualitative data from 23 managers.


The Chinese managers emphasized relationship-specific, personalized trustworthiness. They highlighted personalized communication and benevolence, which manifested in respect and reciprocity, rooted in the Chinese notion of “guanxi” as personal ties. In contrast, the Finnish managers’ view of trustworthiness was more associated with depersonalized organizational attributes. They emphasized the dimension of integrity, especially promise-keeping. In addition, tentative signs of trust ambivalence, as a balance between trust- and distrust-related factors, were identified for both the Chinese and the Finns.

Research limitations/implications

Due to the exploratory nature of this study the validity of the findings is limited to these data and context. Future studies could explore other national contexts as well as the effects of industry, market position, and position in the supply chain.

Practical implications

The findings of this study bring a valuable understanding of the potential pitfalls and unique challenges in cross-border inter-firm transactions. These can enhance inter-firm trust building in a cross-cultural context.


This study enriches the view of trust as a holistic process of simultaneous evaluation of both trustworthiness and distrustworthiness. In this process, trust ambivalence could serve as the intermediate construct between trust and distrust. These two contrary yet complementary opposites constitute a duality to be managed from the perspective of yin-yang balancing.



Jukka, M., Blomqvist, K., Ping Li, P. and Gan, C. (2017), "Trust-distrust balance: trust ambivalence in Sino-Western B2B relationships", Cross Cultural & Strategic Management, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 482-507.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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