China is an extremely complex and “insider-controlled” market for foreign businesses. This study offers a yin-yang balancing perspective of international exchange relationships in China. The authors investigate how “relational gatekeepers” play a key role in achieving a dynamic balance between Western companies and local partners in international exchange relationships. In-depth interviews are conducted with 41 business managers based in China, Australia, and New Zealand. Guided by the yin-yang balancing frame, the authors develop four key constructs of relational gatekeeping: the gatekeeper resources of mianzi (insider status) and renqing (insider favor) and the gatekeeper capabilities of zao shi (creating favorable momentum) and ying shi (leveraging favorable momentum). The yin-yang frame provides a process view of business relationships that accepts paradoxical conditions and embraces dynamic network momentum, resources, and capabilities. The study concludes by showing the theoretical implications for network theory and for the field of dynamic balancing and suggests the managerial implications for an international company aiming to engage relational gatekeepers to break into insider (guanxi)-controlled local business networks.
- international exchange relationships
- relational gatekeeper
- yin-yang balancing