Explaining Hierarchical Government Trust in China:The Perspectives of Institutional Shaping and Perceived Performance
Author: Hsin-hao Huang
Abstract / Chinese PDF Download
“Hierarchical government trust” indicates that political trust varies according to the level of government. Many scholars have argued that within Chinese society, trust in the central government is higher than trust in local governments. However, the literature is primarily focused on specific groups, and still needs to be verified with more representative surveys. Using comprehensive survey data from the 2012 World Values Survey in China, this article demonstrates that Chinese citizens have varying levels of political trust according to the level of government. The results show that approximately 75 percent of respondents hadhigher trust in the central government than in local governments, demonstrating that “hierarchical government trust” is prevalent in Chinese society. Second, this article uses the perspectives of institutional shaping and perceived performance as a starting point to explain hierarchical trust in government in China. Through empirical analysis, this article identifies the petitioning system and political mobilization as two contextual factors shaping institutions. Perceived performance (central and local government performance and assessment of family economic condition) has a mediating effect on the higher trust in central government. Finally, the article argues that hierarchical government trust is a more suitable approach for understanding the nature of public opinion in China, and identifying its political implications.