PhD Completion Seminar: Political Trust in China: Evidence from Water Consumption in Shanghai


PhD Completion Seminar: Political Trust in China: Evidence from Water Consumption in Shanghai

Lecture Theatre 2, Basement level
School of Geography
221 Bouverie Street, Carlton


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This seminar reports on the results of research that sought to understand political trust in China through the lens of fresh water consumption in Shanghai. Research on political trust suffers from a case-selection bias. Most of the studies on political trust focus on liberal democracies and this problematizes the generalisability of those findings. In order to broaden the evidence and to test the relevance of existing theories of political trust in a different political context, this thesis answers three questions: 1. what is the influence of demographic factors on political trust?; 2. what is the relationship between risk perception and political trust?; and 3. what other factors help explain political trust? It does this by investigating people’s trust in water management institutions in Shanghai, which grounds the analysis in a specific risk that requires people to trust in public authorities. This thesis finds that that some of the explanations of political trust in democratic regimes also apply in China, but with subtle differences. Specifically, demographic factors have a slightly different effect in China: more educated people and people with urban hukou tend to be more critical and cynical than people with less education and rural hukou, while other individual characteristics, such as age, gender, and household income do not have significant influence on political trust. Risk perception and political trust are statistically correlated and seemingly bidirectional, but the association is affected by individual coping strategies and feelings of empowerment.


  • Ms Nahui Zhen
    Ms Nahui Zhen, School of Geography, The University of Melbourne