Date of Award

Summer 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Jie Chen

Committee Member

David C. Earnest

Committee Member

Shaomin Li


Social trust, as an essential element of political culture, is assumed to strongly affect the effectiveness of political institution. However, such studies in non-democratic settings are scarce, and even scarcer in the Chinese context. This dissertation, using data drawn from an original survey in rural China, examines the extent, sociopolitical origins, and political consequences of social trust in China. The results suggest that China has a unique pattern of social trust owing to its dual Confucian and Communist heritages. While trusts in relatives, neighbors, kinsman, and other villagers (i.e., particularized trust) are extensive, trust in strangers (generalized trust) is scarce. Using multilevel level analysis, this dissertation finds that both personal traits and village attributes help to explain the distributions of social trust in rural China. Finally, contrary to the common beliefs, this dissertation finds that variations in public goods provision in rural China can be best explained by particularized trust, but not generalized trust.


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