Skip to main content
Log in

Government performance, political trust, and citizen subjective well-being: evidence from rural China

  • Research Article
  • Published:
Global Public Policy and Governance Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Little is known about the political determinants of subjective well-being across nations. The objective of the study presented in this article is to single out the importance of a variety of determinants on the perceived quality of life in China, aiming, in particular, to understand the role and the importance of political conditions. Using individual level data from a survey conducted in Ya’an Municipality of Sichuan Province, our analysis shows that not only the personal situation and the local environment, but also the performance of one’s town/township government, as well as political trust are relevant for citizens’ subjective well-being. However, if political trust is important for satisfaction with life, this is predominantly an effect of trust in local government. In the Chinese context, our findings confirm that citizens’ quality of life is influenced by the legitimacy of the political order, conceived in terms of output-legitimacy, i.e., the perception of governmental performance.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

Availability of data and material

Data are available on request.

Code availability

SPSS.

Notes

  1. Indeed, analysis of intra-class correlations shows that 19.7% of the variance of the dependent variable is explained at the town level—multi-level modelling is therefore warranted. Because of the relative small number of 10 towns/townships, restricted maximum likelihood estimation is used as recommended by Steenbergen and Jones (2002).

References

  • Andrejovský, P., Gajdoš, J., Hajduová, Z., & Andrejkovič, M. (2012). Ecologisation of social development and quality. In 12th International multidisciplinary scientific geoconference SGEM 2012 (pp. 307–312). Bulgaria: Albena.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baiden, P., Arku, G., Luginaah, I., & Asiedu, A. B. (2011). An assessment of residents’ housing satisfaction and coping in Accra, Ghana. Journal of Public Health, 19(1), 29–37. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10389-010-0348-4

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Beslerová, S., & Dzuričková, J. (2014). Quality of life measurements in EU countries, Enterprise and the Competitive Environment 2014 conference, ECE 2014, 6–7 March 2014, Brno, Czech Republic. Procedia Economics and Finance, 12(2014), 37–47.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bjørnskov, C., Dreher, A., & Fischer, J. A. V. (2008). Cross-country determinants of life satisfaction: Exploring different determinants across groups in society. Social Choice Welfare, 30, 119–173. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00355-007-0225-4

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chu, Y., Bratton, M., Lagos, M., Shastri, S., & Tessler, M. (2008). Public opinion and democratic legitimacy. Journal of Democracy, 19(2), 74–87.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clench-Aas, J., & Holte, A. (2021). Political trust influences the relationship between income and life satisfaction in Europe: Differential associations with trust at national, community, and individual level. Frontiers in Public Health, 9, 629118. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2021.629118

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Diaz-Serrano, L. (2009). Disentangling the housing satisfaction puzzle: Does homeownership really matter? Journal of Economic Psychology, 30(5), 745–755. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joep.2009.06.006

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dong, L. (2006). Direct township elections in China: Latest developments and prospects. Journal of Contemporary China, 15(48), 503–515.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dong, L., & Kübler, D. (2018). Sources of local political trust in rural China. Journal of Contemporary China, 27(110), 193–207.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dunn, J. R. (2002). Housing and inequality in health: A study of socioeconomic dimensions of housing and self-reported health from a survey of Vancouver. Journal of Epidemical Community Health, 56(9), 671–681. https://doi.org/10.1136/jech.56.9.671

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ekici, T., & Koydemir, S. (2014). Social capital, government and democracy satisfaction, and happiness in Turkey: A comparison of surveys in 1999 and 2008. Social Indicators Research, 118(3), 1031–1053.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2000). Happiness, economics and institutions. The Economic Journal, 110, 918–938.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fu, X. (2018). The contextual effects of political trust on happiness: Evidence from China. Social Indicators Research, 139, 491–516. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-017-1721-2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hagerty, M. R., Cummins, R. A., Ferriss, A. L., Land, K., Michalos, A. C., Peterson, M., Sharpe, A., Sirgy, J., & Vogel, J. (2001). Quality of life indexes for national policy: review and agenda for research. Social Indicators Research, 55, 1–96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hajduová, Z., Andrejovský, P., Gajdoš, J., & Andrejkovič, M. (2011). Kvalita života a životné prostredie. Journal of Innovations and Applied Statistics, 1, 37–42.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hudson, J. (2006). Institutional trust and subjective well-being across the EU. Kyklos, 59(1), 43–62.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • ISOQL. (2008). WHOQOL: Measuring Quality of Life. World Health Organization. Retrieved November 11, 2021.

  • Kampen, J. K., Maddens, B., & Vermunt, J. (2003). Trust and satisfaction: A case-study of the micro-performance theory. In A. Salminen (Ed.), Governing networks (pp. 319–326). IOS.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kampen, J. K., Van De Walle, S., & Bouckaert, G. (2006). Assessing the relation between satisfaction with public service delivery and trust in Government. The impact of the predisposition of citizens toward Government on evalutations of its performance. Public Performance & Management Review, 29(4), 387–404. https://doi.org/10.1080/15309576.2006.11051881

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Knopman, D., Zmud, J., Ecola, L., Zhimin, M., & Crane, K. (2015). Quality of life indicators and policy strategies to advance sustainability in the Pearl River Delta. RAND Corporation.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Lewis-Beck, M. S., Tang, W., & Martini, N. F. (2014). A Chinese popularity function sources of Government support. Political Research Quarterly, 67(1), 16–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Li, L. (2004). Political trust in rural China. Modern China, 30(2), 228–258.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Li, L. (2013). The magnitude and resilience of trust in the center: Evidence from interviews with petitioners in Beijing and a local survey in rural China. Modern China, 39(3), 3–36.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Li, L. (2016). Reassessing trust in the central Government: Evidence from five national surveys. The China Quarterly, 225(3), 100–121.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Liang, Y. (2016). Trust in Chinese government and quality of life (QOL) of Sichuan Earthquake survivors: Does trust in government help to promote QOL? Social Indicators Research, 127(2), 541–564.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Loveless, T. (1997). The structure of public confidence in education. American Journal of Education, 105(2), 127–159.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ma, D. (2007). 政治信任及其起源—对亚洲8个国家和地区的比较研” [Political trust and its origin: A comparative study of eight Asian countries or regions]. 《经济社会比较》 [Comparative Economic and Social Systems], 5, 79–86.

  • Ma, D. (2008). 信任、信任的起源与信任的变迁 [Trust, its origin and transformation]. 《开放时代》 [Opening Times], 4, 72–86.

  • Mishler, M., & Rose, R. (1997). Trust, distrust and skepticism: Popular evaluations of civil and political institutions in post-communist societies. The Journal of Politics, 59(2), 418–451.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Møller, V. (2001). Monitoring quality of life in cities: The Durban case. Development Southern Africa, 18(2), 217–238.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morais, P., Miguéis, V. L., & Camanho, A. S. (2011). Quality of life experienced by human capital: An assessment of European cities. Social Indicators Research. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-011-9923-5

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mueller, G. P. (2009). Trust and life satisfaction in Eastern and Western Europe. In Quality of life and the millennium challenge (pp. 161–176). Springer, Dordrecht.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Newton, K. (2001). Trust, social capital, civil society, and democracy. International Political Science Review, 22(2), 201–214.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Newton, K., & Norris, P. (2000). Confidence in public institutions: Faith, culture, or performance? In S. Pharr & R. Putnam (Eds.), Disaffected democracies. Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pacione, M. (2003). Urban environmental quality and human wellbeing—A social geographical perspective. Landscape and Urban Planning, 65(1–2), 19–30. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0169-2046(02)00234-7

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pattie, C., Seyd, P., & Whiteley, P. (2004). Citizenship in Britain: Values, participation and democracy. Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J.-Y., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(5), 879–903.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Radcliff, B. (2001). Politics, markets, and life satisfaction: The political economy of human happiness. American Political Science Review, 95(4), 939–952.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Saich, T. (2007). Citizens’ perceptions of governance in rural and urban China. Journal of Chinese Political Science, 12(1), 1–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shu, X., & Zhu, Y. (2009). The quality of life in China. Social Indicators Research, 92(2), 191–225.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith, S. J., Easterlow, D., Munro, M., & Turner, K. T. (2003). Housing as health capital: How health trajectories and housing paths are linked. Journal of Social Issues, 59(3), 501–525. https://doi.org/10.1111/1540-4560.00075

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Steenbergen, M. R., & Jones, B. S. (2002). Modeling multilevel data structures. American Journal of Political Science, 46(1), 218–237.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stipak, B. (1979). Citizen satisfaction with urban services: Potential misuse as a performance indicator. Public Administration Review, 39(1), 46–52.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thørgensen, S., Elklit, J., & Dong, L. (2008). Consultative elections of Chinese township leaders—Report from a recent experiment in Ya’an, Sichuan. China Information, XXII(1), 67–89.

    Google Scholar 

  • Uslaner, E. M. (2002). The moral foundations of trust. Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Van de Walle, S., Kampen, J. K., & Bouckaert, G. (2005). Deep impact for high-impact agencies? Assessing the role of bureaucratic encounters in evaluations of government. Public Performance & Management Review, 28(4), 532–549.

    Google Scholar 

  • Van Ryzin, G. G., Muzzio, D., & Immerwahr, S. (2004). Drivers and consequences of citizen satisfaction: An application of the American Customer Satisfaction Index model to New York City. Public Administration Review, 64(3), 331–341.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Veenhoven, R. (1993). Happiness in nations. Risbo.

    Google Scholar 

  • Veenhoven, R. (1996). Developments in satisfaction research. Social Indicators Research, 37, 1–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Whiteley, P., Clarke, H. D., Sanders, D., & Stewart, M. C. (2010). Government performance and life satisfaction in contemporary Britain. The Journal of Politics, 72(3), 733–746.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wu, C., & Wilkes, R. (2017). Local–national political trust patterns: Why China is an exception. International Political Science Review, 39, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192512116677587

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yang, G., & Zeng, S. (2016). The comparison of trust structure between urban and rural residents in China. American Journal of Industrial and Business Management, 6(5), 665–673. https://doi.org/10.4236/ajibm.2016.65062

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The research for this article is supported by the Investigation into China’s National Conditions Programme (Institute-level), the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (2014–2017). Mr. Chen Ziruan, then Party Secretary of Tianfeng Township, Yingjing County facilitated support of Ya’an Municipality to this survey. Professor Shan Guoyan of Sichuan Agricultural University led her students at the Department of Sociology for assisting the administration of the survey. Dong would like to thank the Department of Political Science, University of Zurich for hosting him from September 2020 to August 2021, when this article is finalized. A previous version of this article was presented at the colloquium ‘Housing in Urban China’, organised by the Centre for European Studies and Comparative Politics, Sciences Po Paris (June 13th to 15th 2019). The authors would like to thank participants for helpful comments and feedback.

Funding

The research for this article was supported by the Investigation into China’s National Conditions Programme (Institute-level), the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (2014–2017).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

LD designed and administered the questionnaire survey and wrote the literature review and theoretical parts of the article; DK made data analysis and drafted and revised the article.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lisheng Dong.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

No conflicts of interest.

Additional declarations for articles in life science journals that report the results of studies involving humans and/or animals

Not applicable.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 5 and 6.

Table 5 Perceptional independent, dependent and control variables: factor analysis (PCA)
Table 6 Assessment of local government policies: factor analysis (PCA)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Dong, L., Kübler, D. Government performance, political trust, and citizen subjective well-being: evidence from rural China. GPPG 1, 383–400 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s43508-021-00024-9

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s43508-021-00024-9

Keywords

Navigation