From BusinessWeek (link)
When a well-connected friend in Shanghai told me he could score some really excellent tickets for the Rolling Stones long-awaited debut concert in China on Apr. 8, I was in a state of rock ‘n’ roll nirvana. “These are really V-V.I.P. tickets,” he assured me a week before the concert. It looked like I was the beneficiary of China’s deeply ingrained business and personal networking phenomenon called guanxi.
Just about any foreign executive who hits the ground on the mainland these days has heard something about guanxi. Unless you invest a lot of time cementing relationships with suppliers, retailers, bankers, and above all, government officials, it is tough to work through the myriad official and unofficial barriers that govern commercial activity in China, or so the conventional wisdom goes. Even in the personal sphere, connections matter greatly, especially if you want coveted tickets to see Mick Jagger and the lads strut their stuff at a sold-out gig in Shanghai.