China: High Trust, But Skepticism Toward Business

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that China rose to the top of the Trust Index among the 28 markets surveyed, jumping seven points to 74 among the general population. China was also the market that saw the most significant increases in trust across all of the key institutions: government, media, NGOs and business.

This year’s results are unprecedented in the history of the study, with trust in government in China reaching its highest recorded levels. Government experienced the most growth among the general population, jumping eight percentage points to 84 percent, and three percentage points to 89 percent within the informed public. In the survey, 68 percent of people believe that, of the four institutions, the government is most likely to lead the country to a better future. This is a genuine reflection of the general population’s confidence in reaction to both economic and social achievements in China.

The rapid economic growth as well as government’s efforts in deepening reforms have continuously improved people’s livelihood overall. The anti-corruption campaign following the 18th National People’s Congress has deposed both high-ranking and local level officials from office and has improved the efficiency and transparency of government agencies.

The Belt and Road Initiative, China’s new platform for international cooperation and a stronger stance in diplomatic policies, showcase China’s growing influence in global affairs. It will involve over 70 countries coming together to not only enhance trade and commerce, but also further their ties diplomatically, as well as culturally.

Trust in business also increased by four percentage points to 85 percent among the informed public and seven percentage points to 74 percent among the general population. Thirteen out of 15 industry sectors witnessed an increase in the level of the trust, however, business was seen as the most broken institution among the four. There is still skepticism toward business. In China, 77 percent of respondents agree companies that only think about themselves and their profits are bound to fail, and 52 percent still believe CEOs are driven more by greed than a desire to make a positive difference in the world.

Businesses must work on building credibility and commit to change and long-term results for business and beyond. With the Chinese government’s increasing efforts in making China a strong and respected nation in the eyes of the world, businesses also need to take a proactive role to tell a better story, synergizing with government direction.

For CEOs, building trust is a top priority as 72 percent agree CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it. They should also play the role of spokesperson, since the people’s credibility in CEOs has increased by 16 percentage points.

China is ready to capitalize on this momentum and continue to work towards a more promising future. With this growth in trust nationwide and the development of The Belt and Road, businesses need to focus on building their brands and representing Chinese values properly on a global scale.

Jeffrey Yu is CEO, China.

Hanny Naibaho

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