Revisiting China’s Social Volcano: Attitudes toward Inequality and Political Trust in China

Lei, Ya-Wen (2020). Revisiting China’s Social Volcano: Attitudes toward Inequality and Political Trust in China. Socius, DOI:10.1177/2378023120915382

50 Pages Posted: 19 May 2020 Last revised: 15 Jun 2020

See all articles by Ya-Wen Lei

Ya-Wen Lei

Harvard University, Department of Sociology

Date Written: April 15, 2020

Abstract

Existing literature suggests that despite rising inequality in China, Chinese people tend to tolerate inequality, so it would be unlikely that rising inequality would cause sociopolitical instability. Few studies, however, have systematically explained Chinese people’s attitudes toward inequality, analyzed attitudinal changes over time, or examined the relationship between such attitudes and political trust. The author’s analysis of national surveys in 2004, 2009, and 2014 yields three findings. First, critical attitudes toward inequality consistently correlate with a structural understanding of inequality and skepticism of procedural or institutional justice. Second, Chinese people’s attitudes toward inequality changed little between 2004 and 2009, but between 2009 and 2014, there was increasing criticality of both inequality and its seeming disjuncture with China’s socialist principles. Third, people who are discontent with income inequality in China are more likely than others to distrust the local government, and those who draw on socialism to critique inequality are also more likely to distrust the central and local governments. Together, these findings suggest rising inequality could have political ramifications.

Keywords: inequality, socialism, social volcano, political trust, China

JEL Classification: Z39

Suggested Citation

Lei, Ya-Wen, Revisiting China’s Social Volcano: Attitudes toward Inequality and Political Trust in China (April 15, 2020). Lei, Ya-Wen (2020). Revisiting China’s Social Volcano: Attitudes toward Inequality and Political Trust in China. Socius, DOI:10.1177/2378023120915382 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3580370

Ya-Wen Lei (Contact Author)

Harvard University, Department of Sociology ( email )

William James Hall, Sixth Floor
33 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

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