Political Trust in Rural China

Lianjiang Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

351 Citations (Scopus)


This article shows that while some Chinese villagers see the state as monolithic, more believe that there are substantial differences between the central and local governments. Among those who perceive a divided state, most appear to have more trust in higher levels than in lower levels and distinguish between the intent and the capacity of the central government (“the Center”). They trust that the Center’s intent is beneficent but distrust its capacity to ensure faithful implementation of its policies. The article concludes that the central state has some breathing space because dissatisfaction with lower levels does not immediately generate demands for fundamental political reforms; in addition, the combination of trust in the Center’s intent and distrust in its capacity may encourage villagers to defy local officials in the name of the Center. If villagers’ rightful resistance fails, total disillusionment with the Center may set in, resulting in cynicism or radicalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-258
Number of pages31
JournalModern China
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Peasant
  • Political trust
  • Protest


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