Public expectations of government influence private action for managing climate change risks. Institutional neglect or incompetence result in a loss of trust in public institutions, consequently discouraging the public from taking added responsibility for risk management. This has been explained in terms of social contract, but evidence suggests that a politics of distrust can reinforce alternative social drivers of action, rather than displacing action. This is empirically confirmed by the present study, which examines the tendencies for adopting private protective measures across a gradient of institutional trust. Surveys were conducted in four jurisdictions within China that operate under two different political-economic systems, namely, Hong Kong and Macao (liberal market economy), and Zhuhai and Sanya (socialist market economy). Structured interviews were conducted with 569 business operators to explore how their stated adaptation practice is related to institutional trust and social capital. We found that trust predicted action only in Sanya, which is characterized by a high level of public confidence in authorities. In places of lower institutional trust, social capital became a salient and powerful driver of action. The weakening of the social contracts in Hong Kong and Macao turned their people to alternative social mechanisms. We explain the results in terms of the development trajectories, socio-political norms and institutional settings of these jurisdictions. This study provides insights into how adaptation practice can be mediated by the consequences of a change in political leadership, policy, or governance arrangements that alters the relationship of trust. Copyright © 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
CitationLo, A. Y., Liu, S., Chow, A. S. Y., Pei, Q., Cheung, L. T. O., & Fok, L. (2021). In government we trust? Micro-business adaptation to climate change in four post-colonial and transitional economies of China. Global Environmental Change, 69. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2021.102305
- Climate change adaptation
- Institutional trust
- Social capital
- Public confidence