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Social trust, neighborhood cohesion, and public trust in the police in China

Ziqiang Han (Institute for Disaster Management and Reconstruction, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China)
Ivan Y. Sun (Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA)
Rong Hu (Xiamen University, Xiamen, China)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 15 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to assess the influences of social trust and neighborhood cohesion on public trust in the police in China.


This study used survey data collected from roughly 5,600 respondents by the 2012 Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS). Multivariate regression was employed to analyze the effects of two forms of social trust, generalized trust and particularized trust, and three types of neighborhood cohesion, neighbor solidary, support and interaction, on public trust in the Chinese police, controlling for personal background characteristics.


Both generalized trust and particularized trust exerted a significant positive effect on trust in the Chinese police. Greater neighborhood cohesion also enhanced public trust in the police. Elderly, women, less educated and people with rural hukou and higher perceived social class were more likely to trust the police.

Research limitations/implications

The CGSS data contained only a single item that could be used to measure public trust in the police. Future studies should consider using multiple survey items to reflect Chinese people’s trust from different conceptual dimensions, such as procedural- and outcome-based trust and police legitimacy. The CGSS data also did not contain information on some relevant predictors, such as victimization and fear of crime, personal and vicarious contact experiences with the police, and news and social media usage and exposure. Future studies, if possible, should incorporate these theoretically relevant and empirically proven variables into the analysis.

Practical implications

Improving neighborhood cohesion is a clear path to cultivate stronger public trust in the police. Policy-makers and officials must bring the neighborhood-centered approach back to local governance by working closely with police leaders and other private and parochial social institutions to launch programs that can effectively stabilize and strengthen local communities and actively promoting positive interactions and social bonds among residents. Policies and programs aimed at enhancing public trust in the police should target at younger, better educated and urban Chinese who are more likely to be critical of the police.


Despite their high relevance, social trust and neighborhood cohesion have received only limited attention in past research on Chinese attitudes toward the police. This study represents one of the first attempts to examine different forms of social trust and neighborhood cohesion on public trust in the police in China.



This paper is funded by the Sichuan University (skyb201502), China. The first and second authors contributed to the paper equally. The authorship order is based on the alphabetical order of authors’ last name.


Han, Z., Sun, I.Y. and Hu, R. (2017), "Social trust, neighborhood cohesion, and public trust in the police in China", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 40 No. 2, pp. 380-394.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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