Local distrust and regime support: Sources and effects of political trust in China

Dan Chen, Elizabethtown College


Political trust is an important indicator of regime support. However, we have yet to fully understand the sources and consequence of varying levels of trust in specific political institutions. Difference in political trust at national and local levels is especially important for understanding authoritarian systems. Focusing on China, this article examines different levels of trust in the central and local governments. Building on existing research that consistently finds high central trust with lower local trust, this article investigates whether the trust sources differ and the consequence on regime support. Using survey data, it finds that national economic evaluation is positively associated with trust at both levels. Perceived corruption at respective levels is negatively correlated with trust. Citizens who use the Internet more tend to trust the central government less, while those who perceive high quality of public services tend to trust their local governments more. However, citizens who trust the central government but distrust their local governments tend to show less regime support. This suggests that instead of simply blaming local governments for incompetency or wrongdoing, citizens’ local distrust weakens regime support.