Historical Traumas and the Roots of Political Distrust: Political Inference from the Great Chinese Famine

84 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2015 Last revised: 19 Jan 2016

See all articles by Yuyu Chen

Yuyu Chen

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management

David Yang

Stanford University - Department of Economics

Date Written: December 20, 2015

Abstract

What shapes citizens’ trust in the government, and what makes it persist over time? We study the causal effect of the Great Chinese Famine (1958-1961) on the survivors’ political distrust. Using a novel nationally representative survey, we employ a difference-in-differences framework to compare citizens who were exposed to the Famine versus those who were not, across regions with differential levels of drought during the Famine. The Famine survivors inferred the government’s liability from personal hunger experiences, and they were more likely to blame the government for their starvation in regions with usual rainfall during the Famine. As a result, these citizens exhibit significantly less trust in the local government. The dampened political trust persists even half a century after the Famine, and it has been transmitted to the subsequent generation. We provide suggestive evidence on the mechanisms that foster such persistence.

Keywords: Political Trust, Political Attitudes, China, Authoritarian Regime, Persistence

JEL Classification: D83, P26, Z13

Suggested Citation

Chen, Yuyu and Yang, David, Historical Traumas and the Roots of Political Distrust: Political Inference from the Great Chinese Famine (December 20, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2652587 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2652587

Yuyu Chen

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management ( email )

Peking University
Beijing, Beijing 100871
China

David Yang (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States

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