SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

Governance Reform, Social Inequality and the Changing Public Opinion in China

Zhengqing Zheng
Dr Zhenqing Zheng (Tsinghua University, Beijing)

Date: 10 June 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 10 June 2019Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: Wolfson Lecture Theatre (SWLT)

Type of Event: Seminar

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China’s reforms and opening up strategy since the 1980's has introduced bureaucratic changes and market forces into reshaping the general public’s lives and opinions. On one hand, the government had to reform itself to adapt to the fast-economic growth as well as the major social change and thus various social policies have been expanding to benefit the general people; on the other hand, the immature market economy, incompletely lawfully regulated or even politically distorted, has been producing more and more social inequality and distributive unfairness. Therefore, we can find a fragmented, stratified social mood towards the governance system in China.

This seminar uses four waves of China’s national survey data of the Asian Barometer Survey (ABS, 2001-2016) to demonstrate to what degree, social differences in urban-rural divide, social stratification, distributive fairness perceptions, generational gap and so on have impacted people’s attitudes regarding governance reform and performance in China. Various social inequality indices and perceptions of governance system are combined to work out the political sociological logic of the changing Chinese public opinion on political trust, government performance and public policy satisfaction.

This seminar examines revising the two popular but specious viewpoints that the Chinese government is either very successful in winning completer legitimacy or is too fragile as to be fallen with the last straw. It is argued with empirical analyses that a complicated and sophisticated structure of public opinion on the CCP-dominated governance system has formed, and the high governance efficacy and the exacerbated social inequality are simultaneously striving for the swinging public opinion. Besides, increasingly entrenched distributive unfairness has been moderating the influencing mechanisms of other social differences regarding political trust and performance evaluation, etc.  


Dr. Zhenqing Zheng received his Ph.D. from Peking University, is an Associate Professor at the School of Public Policy and Management of Tsinghua University, Beijing, and is the Director of International Master of Public Administration program at Tsinghua University. His research interests include political sociology, social governance, and public opinion survey in greater China. He has chaired and conducted various large-scale public opinion surveys in mainland China and in Taiwan, recently focusing on surveying effects of social inequality on various political attitudes such as political trust, governance performance, democratic preferences, and nationalism, etc. He has published dozens of research articles in English and Chinese peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Zheng can be reached at:


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