Reassessing Trust in the Central Government: Evidence from Five National Surveys

Lianjiang LI*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

95 Citations (SciVal)


This paper argues that popular trust in the Chinese central government is significantly weaker than five national surveys suggest. The evidence comes from these surveys. First, the surveys show that between one- and two-thirds of respondents hold hierarchical trust, i.e. they have more trust in the central government than they do in local government. Second, all other things being equal, people who are less satisfied with political democracy in China tend to be less trusting of the central government. Finally, hierarchical trust holders tend to be less satisfied with political democracy in the country than those who express equal trust for central and local governments. Put together, the three findings show that hierarchical trust holders are less trusting of the central government than equal trust holders with regard to developing political democracy, although they sound equally confident. The fact that so many respondents hold hierarchical trust indicates that trust in the central government is significantly weaker than it looks.

本文认为中国民众对中央政府的信任度显著低于五个全国调查显示 的水平。证据来自这五个调查。首先, 调查显示介于三分之一至三分之二 的受访人持差序信任, 即对中央政府的信任度高于对地方政府的信任度。 第二, 控制其他情况, 对中国政治民主状况满意度越低, 对中央政府的信任 度越低。最后, 与持同等信任的人相比, 持差序信任的人对中国政治民主 状况满意度较低。综合起来, 这三个发现显示持差序信任的人在发展政治 民主这个问题上对中央政府的信任度低于持同等信任的人, 尽管这两组人 表面看来对中央的信任度相同。为数众多的人持差序信任这一事实表明民 众对中央政府的信任度显著低于其表面呈现的水平。

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-121
Number of pages22
JournalChina Quarterly
Early online date1 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

The author acknowledges the financial support of the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (Project ID: CUHK 450111). He thanks Bruce Dickson, Xiang Gao, Vicki Hesli, John Kennedy, Melanie Manion, Kevin O'Brien, Wei Shan, Wenfang Tang, Yihan Xiong and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts.


  • authoritarian resilience
  • China
  • hierarchical trust
  • integrated measurement of trust
  • political trust
  • trust in the central government
  • 政治信任
  • 差序信任
  • 对中央政府的信任
  • 综合测量信任
  • 威权制度 的韧性

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