Perceived Social Mobility and Political Trust in China

in African and Asian Studies
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Existing studies have traced China’s high political trust to three sources: traditional culture, the state’s success in fostering economic growth, and ideological propaganda. We identify a fourth source: perceived social mobility. We argue that when people perceive a reasonable chance for upward mobility based on personal initiatives and efforts, the status quo becomes more justifiable because individuals are responsible for their own successes and failures. Perceived social mobility thus instills a sense of optimism and fairness and exonerates the regime from many blames, thereby enhancing political trust. Regression analysis of the China portion of the 2007 World Values Survey data shows that respondents who saw themselves as having choices and control in life were indeed more likely to trust the ruling communist party. The respondents’ overall level of perceived social mobility is also high, which is consistent with the massive shake-up of the preexisting social order in China’s reform era.

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  • 3

    Mishlerand Rose’s study (2001) does not include China.

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