Can general and particularistic types of trust mix? Advancing the trust (dis-)continuity debate in a Chinese context

Horak, S.; Klein, A.; Li, X. (2022). Can general and particularistic types of trust mix? Advancing the trust (dis-)continuity debate in a Chinese context. International Journal of Emerging Markets, 17(5), 1273-1291. DOI: 10.1108/IJOEM-07-2020-0745

We challenge the discontinuity (also called incompatibility) hypothesis of generalized and particularistic trust, suggesting that the two types of trust are incompatible, that is, one does not influence the other. This view is problematic because if so, it remains unclear, for instance, how communities scoring high in particularistic trust can ever develop further when transferring trust to spheres outside the community is not an option. In this research, we explore the potential permeability of different types of trust in an emerging market context using the case of China. Using a purposeful sampling technique, we gathered data among Chinese professionals (n = 290) in the Jingjinji metropolitan region in Tianjin. The data was analyzed by performing structural equation modeling in SPSS Amos 23. As we identify interdependencies between generalized and particularistic types of trust, our results speak in favor of the continuity hypothesis. We find that the more people trust other people from an outside group (out-group trust), the less they trust quasi-familiar others (in-group trust). Further, in-group trust increases once the environment urges people to engage in informal network (guanxi)-based transactions. Advancing the common view of China being a typical low-trust society, in which distrust in strangers (i.e., outsiders) prevails, we find a recent trend of an increase in general trust, which might lead to increases of out-group and in-group trust alike. Contrary to the widespread idea that guanxi is declining in the present day we find guanxi to be persistent.

Trust continuity, general trust, particularistic trust, in-group trust, out-group trust, China, emerging markets, guanxi importance.

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