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Post Measuring Trustworthiness by Nation: China
Created by John Eipper on 08/22/17 4:18 AM

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Measuring Trustworthiness by Nation: China (Henry Levin, USA, 08/22/17 4:18 am)

As I suggested in my earlier post (August 20th), you have to treat the issue of trust at a more granular level.

I have not seen the construction of the Pew survey that John E mentioned in his comments.  But, it is my experience that the Chinese trust authority. If one is an important party operative or a key executive in a State-owned enterprise or a local politician with strong ties to the party or key individuals, one will see levels of enrichment and wealth that go far beyond what could be accumulated through salaries. That is, the wealth has come from other means of privilege. Yet, power is highly respected and trusted because the State is the instrument of such power and what it confers in treasure. This is not the same as trust in everyday interactions with strangers. I don't have time now to evaluate the survey because I am preparing for my fall classes.

The enrichment that I mention is considered acceptable, even if acquired through what we believe are dubious means, because one has to trust the source of authority and power unless one is prepared to resist it. I won't mention the consequences of opposing the sources and structure of established power relations. But, you should note that even the present "fight on corruption" is highly personalized against those who have lost favor in some way.

But, even in an academic setting in China there is "trust" if you mean that the older academics in higher ranks (mostly without the training and skills of new graduates from abroad) trust their superiors to assign their research and teaching. This is not a matter of choice. This is an accepted practice where trust is based upon tradition that has been considered legitimate and intact for centuries. So, I continue to push for a discussion based upon definition and operationalization of trust rather than generalizing about the term at an abstract level.

JE comments:  Piggybacking on José Ignacio Soler's dissection of "trust" in Spanish vs English (August 21st), I would like to see a similar exercise for Chinese.  Hank Levin suggests that trust in Chinese culture may have more to do with respect for authority and the status quo.  Western notions of trust have much to do with a presumption of fairness.  Are we on to something here?


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