Evolution of B2B relationship stages in China: A study of confucianism philosophy

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This study aims to explore the development of business relationships from an interactional perspective, which challenges the conventional time-based view in Western contexts. Twenty in-depth interviews with Chinese SME managers reveal the uniqueness and importance of the operationalization of Confucian virtues, the guiding principles, and mechanisms for social interactions and trading practice, in developing Chinese business to business (B2B) relationship stages (i.e., discernment, authentication, stabilization, and decoupling). Given the role of Confucian virtues and their dynamics for the development of business relationships, we further argue that the evolution of a relationship depends on the shifts in concerns of transactional and relational governances among business partners. Our propositions advance the literature by showing that distinct constructions of Confucian virtues mark a vantage point for business operators and practitioners in formulating effective B2B relationship strategies in China, and raising future research questions of the impacts from sub-evolutions in Confucian virtues on B2B relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalIndustrial Marketing Management
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • B2B relationship
  • Confucianism
  • Five virtues
  • Relational governance
  • Transactional governance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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