Who You Know

21 Dec 2006|LiAnne Yu

China has a long tradition of guanxiwang, the concept of a personal connection between people in which each may prevail upon the other for a favor or service. In a recent trip from Beijing to Shanghai, we personally experienced how guanxiwang works.

On arrival at the Beijing airport, we were greeted by a friendly baggage handler who quickly grabbed our bag, saying, “No worries. I take care you.” At the ticket counter, we learned our seats were not confirmed and we had been bumped from the flight. Our new friend, the baggage handler, told us, “No worries. I fix.” He led us to someone he described as his “friend,” talked to him briefly, then smilingly told us, “New flight for you.” He quickly marched us to the front of the China Eastern ticket line and got us on a flight leaving in 30 minutes. We proceeded to baggage check-in where he once again got us to the front of the line with a few words to another “friend.” He did the same for security and for the line to board the shuttle. As our van departed for the plane, he grinned happily and said, “Bye-bye, you very good ladies.” The “very good” part no doubt had to do with the large tip we gave him, but his guanxiwang connections saved our day.

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