DOI: 10.12924/si2013.01010059 |Publication Date: 16 August 2013

Social Class and Social Capital in China and Britain: A Comparative Study

Yaojun Li
Institute for Social Change, School of Social Sciences, Manchester University, UK
Abstract: We use the China General Social Survey (2005) and the Home Office Citizenship Survey (2005) to study civic engagement and neighbourhood trust in China and Britain in this paper. We focus on class differences in participation in sports/recreation, religion, children’s/adult education and public-welfare activities, and trust in the neighbours. At an overall level, we find higher levels of civic involvement in Britain but greater neighbourhood trust in China. This overall difference is due to China having a large proportion of peasants who have very low levels of civic involvement but very high levels of neighbourhood trust. Among the non-peasant population, the two countries have similar levels of class differences in civic (except religious) involvement. Whilst little class difference is found in China on neighbourhood trust, marked effects are shown in Britain. Overall, there is greater similarity than difference in class effects on both domains of social capital. The difference can be traced to civic traditions and levels of social and geographical mobility in the two countries, as well as China-specific institutional arrangement in the household registration (hukou) system.

Keywords: Britain; China; civic engagement; class; hukou; neighbourhood trust


2012 - 2020 by the authors; licensee Librello, Switzerland. This open access article was published under a Creative Commons Attribution License (