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Department of Land Economy

Environment, Law & Economics

This is an article that has just been published in China Quarterly, the leading publication in the field of Chinese Studies.

Yan Gao (a1) and Shailaja Fennell (a2)

  • (a1)
    *Institute of New Rural Development in Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the Key Laboratory of Urban Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture, People's Republic of China, and the department of land economy, University of Cambridge.
  • (a2)

    †Centre of Development Studies, and department of land economy, University of Cambridge. Email:

DOI: Published online: 06 February 2017


This paper explores the role of guanxi, particularly in its special form of tunqin, in building rural resilience in a poverty-stricken county in north China. The emphasis of this paper is placed on the nature and function of such guanxi. By presenting how guanxi is maintained, this paper also analyses the impact and effectiveness of local guanxi as a strategy to cope with poverty. Whereas tunqin guanxi appears to have built rural resilience in order to cushion villagers against life's upheavals, the maintenance of rural guanxi diminishes this resilience as scarce resources are spent on the exchange of cash gifts, thus aggravating local poverty.

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