Chasing a Phantom: A Re-evaluation of China’s “Trust Crisis”

Freie Universität Berlin
Thu 20 June 2024 14:15 - 15:45 (CET)

A “trust crisis” has been a focus of public concern and a driver of various social engineering programs by the Chinese state. Should China’s experience of rapid development indeed have eroded social trust, the optimistic theory of modernization and trust would have to accommodate a major exception. Available research, however, has revealed a surprisingly contradictory picture, leaving it unclear if a trust crisis has indeed occurred, or what its shape is. In this talk, H. Christoph Steinhardt draws on a wide range of survey evidence to reexamine this debate. He argues that although the optimistic theory of modernization basically holds, mechanisms of a more pessimistic perspective of transformation and social trust are simultaneously at play. He also argues that certain measures of social trust should be used with more caution in the Chinese context. Finally, he reevaluates the question of why social trust and solidarity in China have been perceived to be in crisis, and reinterprets recent governance initiatives by the state.

H. Christoph Steinhardt is associate professor at the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Vienna. He has previously held positions at the National University of Singapore and The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is speaker of the Working Group on Social Science China Research (ASC) under the German Association of Asian Studies (DGA). His work has been published in journals such as China Journal, European Political Science Review, Journal of Contemporary China, or Mobilization. His research has been funded by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council, the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation and the European Research Council (ERC). He is currently leading an ERC Consolidator Grant on “Engineering a Trustworthy Society” in China.


No registration needed. 

Place of the event: Freie Universität Berlin, Room 2.2059, “Holzlaube”, Fabeckstraße 23/25, 14195 Berlin

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