The Magnitude and Resilience of Trust in the Center

Modern China, Forthcoming

57 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2011 Last revised: 30 Jul 2014

See all articles by Lianjiang Li

Lianjiang Li

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Social Science


This paper proposes two explanations for why public confidence in Chinese central authorities has appeared high and stable since the early 1990s. Drawing on interviews with petitioners in Beijing, it argues that trust in the Center is resilient in the sense that individuals who might be expected to lose trust often manage to retain it by redefining what constitutes the Center and what is trustworthy about it. On one hand, they remain confident by excluding authorities they find untrustworthy from the Center. On the other hand, they retain confidence about the Center’s commitment even when they no longer trust its capabilities. Drawing on a pilot survey, this paper suggests that global and generic measures used in national surveys may overstate the amount of public confidence in central authorities by missing two subtle variations. For one, people may sound confident about central leaders in general while they only trust one or some leaders. Second, people may sound fully confident about central leaders while they only have partial trust.

Keywords: political trust, petitioning, magnitude and resilience, trustworthiness, dimensions and domains

Suggested Citation

Li, Lianjiang, The Magnitude and Resilience of Trust in the Center. Modern China, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Lianjiang Li (Contact Author)

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Social Science ( email )

Hong Kong

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