Urban-Scale Social Responsibility in China

“Social responsibility” has become a maxim of urban development in Chinese cities, yet there is no consistent set of actions that “social responsibility” must entail. The drive for “social responsibility” has not coalesced into coherent norms governing personal, corporate, and governmental actions. To better understand the behavioral constituents of social responsibility, we propose to measure and analyze behavioral perspectives on “urban-scale” social responsibility. Funded by MIT Samuel Tak Lee Real Estate Entrepreneurship Laboratory, this project surveys how urban residents in China perceive and enact socially responsible behavior across two urban policy domains: real estate and transportation. We will inventory the most essential features of social responsibility in these systems and assess how social categories and self-associations with the city affect residents’ beliefs about social responsibility and corresponding actions.In order to achieve the overarching goal, our investigation addresses the following major questions:

(1) How did the general social trust evolve in China from 2003 to 2013?

Chinese cities have experienced tremendous challenges due to rapid urbanization in the last decade, including air pollution, environmental degradation, traffic congestion, and soaring housing prices. But how urbanization has affected social capital and social trust during this period remains an open question. By employing the China General Society Survey (CGSS) data from 2003 to 2013, we examine factors affecting social trust and measure their changes. By analyzing the CGSS data, we extract latent factors and quantify relationships among information acquisition, self-association, individual trust, and institutional trust, by using structural equation modeling (SEM) controlling for the social-economic and demographic characteristics. We will make robust comparisons of the social trust changes in the last decade in China in both rural and
urban areas, and shed light on empirical findings of social trust and sustainability in contemporary Chinese society.

(2) What is the dynamics of information and disinformation in the urban development processes in Chinese cities?

National, provincial and local governments, developers, realtors, communities, and individuals play various roles in the urban development processes in China. Examining these processes through the information dissemination dynamics is unique that provides a new perspective different from the current the literature. Information supplied by different actors on the various aspects of housing affect significantly on residents’ behavior in the housing market, as buying a housing unit is one of the biggest asset purchasing decisions in a household lifetime. Their experiences will significantly affect their degree of trust towards different entities and affect the sustainability of the society. However, the complex relationships among different players make the urban development process and housing market more intricate than they appear to be. In this
part of the research, we develop a framework to examine the information dynamics among players in the dual-track state-planned as well as market-based housing systems, using Beijing China as an example. We reveal the rationale behind state and local policies, their information dissemination vehicles, and their consequences on trusts among various stakeholders in the Chinese society.

(3) The role of consumption patterns in affecting Chinese residents’ car ownership and usage decision from 2003 to 2010.

In this subproject, we investigate the relationship between Chinese residents’ consumption orientation (life-styles) and their impacts on car ownership and usage from 2003 to 2013. We employed factor analysis method to quantify the latent lifestyles and residence’ surrounding environs from the 2003 and 2013 CGSS data. We then examine the effects of changes in these aspects on car ownership and usage in China from 2003 to 2013. We find that controlling for the variables that are common in existing literature on motorization, such as income, latent consumption orientation (lifestyle) plays an important role in differentiating residents’ car ownership and car usage decisions in China. We find that consumerism in modern society plays a persistent and an increasingly important role in car dependence in these ten years in China. Policy and nudges that foster healthier perceptions on modern lifestyles may help reduce car dependence and shape sustainable development in the future.

(4) How do information uncertainty and the degree of social trust affect residents’ willingness-to- pay in the housing market?

In the last part of the project, we focus on the relationship between information and social responsibility. Based on a survey-based stated preference (SP) experiment, we examine how citizens access, trust, and respond to the information (relevant to real estate development, urban and transportation planning, development, and policies) provided by various stakeholders (e.g., government agencies, real estate developers, IT companies, local communities) via different channels (e.g., social media, open government portals, and traditional media outlets, etc.). By investigating residents’ willingness to pay (WTP) for housing in response to the provided information, we quantify how individual perceptions and their degree of social trust influence their decision making in the real estate market.

Jingkang Gao, Jinhua Zhao.  2018.  Legitimacy vs morality: Why do the Chinese obey the law? Law and Human Behavior. 42(2)

This study explored two aspects of the rule of law in China: (1) motivations for compliance with 4 groups of everyday laws and regulations and (2) determinants of the legitimacy of legal authorities. We applied a structural equations model, constructed from Tyler’s conceptual process-based self-regulation model with morality added as a motivation, to online questionnaire responses from 1,000 Shanghai drivers. We explored the compliance with four particular groups of laws: public disturbance...

Jingkang Gao, Jinhua Zhao.  2016.  Normative and Image Motivations for Compliance with Sustainable Transportation Policy. Urban Studies.

Compliance with laws and regulations intended to protect common pool resources in the urban context is essential in tackling problems such as pollution and congestion. A high level of non-compliance necessitates an investigation into motivations behind compliance. The long-held instrumental theory emphasising the dependence of compliance on tangible deterrence measures fails to adequately explain empirical findings. More recently...


Shan Jiang's picture
Postdoctoral Associate
Jinhua Zhao's picture
Professor of Cities and Transportation
Jake Gao's picture
PhD Candidate