Trust-distrust balance: Trust ambivalence in Sino-Western B2B relationships

Minna Jukka*, Kirsimarja Blomqvist, Peter Ping Li, Chunmei Gan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to explore how Chinese and Finnish managers in cross-cultural supply-chain relationships evaluate their business partners' trustworthiness and distrustworthiness. Design/methodology/approach - Representatives of two Finnish companies and their Chinese and Finnish suppliers were interviewed to collect qualitative data from 23 managers. Findings - The Chinese managers emphasized relationship-specific, personalized trustworthiness. They highlighted personalized communication and benevolence, which manifested in respect and reciprocity, rooted in the Chinese notion of "guanxi" as personal ties. In contrast, the Finnish managers' view of trustworthiness was more associated with depersonalized organizational attributes. They emphasized the dimension of integrity, especially promise-keeping. In addition, tentative signs of trust ambivalence, as a balance between trust- and distrust-related factors, were identified for both the Chinese and the Finns. Research limitations/implications - Due to the exploratory nature of this study the validity of the findings is limited to these data and context. Future studies could explore other national contexts as well as the effects of industry, market position, and position in the supply chain. Practical implications - The findings of this study bring a valuable understanding of the potential pitfalls and unique challenges in cross-border inter-firm transactions. These can enhance inter-firm trust building in a cross-cultural context. Originality/value - This study enriches the view of trust as a holistic process of simultaneous evaluation of both trustworthiness and distrustworthiness. In this process, trust ambivalence could serve as the intermediate construct between trust and distrust. These two contrary yet complementary opposites constitute a duality to be managed from the perspective of yin-yang balancing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)482-507
Number of pages26
JournalCross Cultural and Strategic Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Buyer-supplier relationships
  • Cross-cultural
  • Distrustworthiness
  • Trust ambivalence
  • Trustworthiness


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