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The backstory: Guandan is a card game similar to poker but with its own style. It’s often nicknamed "throwing eggs" or "throwing bombs." With four players sitting around a square table, like mahjong or bridge, the object of the game is to work with your partner to make sure that one of you plays all your cards before your opponents. It’s a game of both strategy and cooperation.
Going back a bit, Guandan's origins can be traced to Chinese provinces like Jiangsu and Zhejiang, where it started gaining steam. These provinces are also currently offering cash incentives for investments in crucial sectors like computer chips and electric vehicle batteries. The thing is, accessing these perks can call for a certain finesse in networking, especially for smaller companies that might be more easily overlooked by investors and banks.
The development: In the world of Chinese business and politics, Guandan has now become a strategic tool. It's not just for fun – it's being used as an icebreaker before negotiating deals. Bloomberg recently interviewed a handful of business leaders, bankers and commodity traders, who have said the game is often a part of cultivating connections and networking.
Guandan's popularity is spreading. Even people in Beijing are showing a keen interest in this game, according to the Chinese search engine Baidu. Big financial players like Citic Securities even designed their own sets of cards. Some of those interviewed even told Bloomberg that, in Jiangsu province, many restaurants are setting up Guandan tables for enthusiasts to enjoy before digging into their meals. It seems to be a way to boost your "guanxi," a term that can refer to the web of relationships essential in Chinese business.
"People in the entire financial circle are playing Guandan," said Hong Hao, chief economist at Grow Investment Group. "I had no choice but to learn."
"It's a game of strategy and requires patience," said Nicholas Liu, a Singapore-based steel trader in his 40s who often travels to eastern China and said he's a fan. "People my age are tired of entertainment like clubbing and prefer a slow but smooth way to have fun."
"It's a long game that requires a lot of strategizing," said Liu. "Usually people won't use it for gambling. It's a healthy table game."