Social Media and its Impact on College Students’ Trust in China

PhD project by Qiong Gong

As the world’s biggest Internet user, China has quite active environment for social media. Since the increasing emergence of social media such as forums, blogs, microblogging, social network service and podcasts have enriched ways for politics, business and education, social media has become a major part of the Chinese Internet culture, especially for Chinese young people. According to the 34st statistics report on the internet development in China, by the end of June 2014, the largest population of Internet users in China are 20-29 years old, which reached 31.5%. As for occupation of Internet users, 23.8% are students. Therefore, the main internet users in China are young students, primary school students occupy 36.8%, high school and other same level technical schools students occupy 30.6% and college students contain 21.4% of the total internet users. Since college students are regarded as well-educated group in China, their trust in institutions and organizations is vital to society, such as their political trust, trust in media and other particular domains.

As the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer shows a global decline in trust over the last year, in 2014, trust has declined for three of the four institutions measured, 60 percent of countries now distrust media, but China experiences relatively high levels of trust across its institutions and the overall levels of trust in China were extremely high in 2015 compared with other countries in North Asia. In 2014, China’s informed public was the most trusting in the world, in 2015 it slips to fourth. Are there any relationships between the high levels of trust in China and their media use especially social media use now? And is it would be possible that the decline of the trust levels this year because of the social media?

This study will examine college students’ use of social media and the impact of social media on their trust in institutions and organizations. Thus the following research questions are formulated: (1) How do different use of social media affect trust in institutions and experts among Chinese college students? (2) To what extent do these effects differ among students of different backgrounds? (3) Which effect does trust in particular domains have in particular trust in those domains?

Research team

PhD Candidate


    • prof.dr. (Marc) MNM Verboord

      prof.dr. (Marc) MNM Verboord

      Marc Verboord is professor of Media and Society at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC), Erasmus University Rotterdam. His research…

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