After a critical inspection of variables in the components, a proper name is given to each extracted factor. The eight factors are named as follows: the interaction history factor, the contracts and institutions factor, the information sharing and communications factor, the relation specific building factor, the competence factor, the reputation factor, the integrity factor, and the opportunistic behaviours factor.
Based on the findings from the survey and the opinions from interviews, the meanings of the eight factors are explained as follows.
The first factor includes four variables, namely “long-term cooperation”, “interaction experience”, “similarity”, and “common goals” (see Table 6). These four variables explain 16.924 % of the variance. Based on the potential characteristics of these variables, we name the factor as “interaction history”.
Because of the dynamic, challenging, and complex nature of construction projects, interaction history is very important. For instance, relational bonding is identified as one of the trust factors because it explains trust between organisations derived from repeated interactions over time (Kadefors 2004).
The Chinese construction industry has blossomed since the year of 2000, which has created many contracting opportunities in construction market. Therefore, behaving trustworthy in past projects provides more opportunities for future projects.
The results from semi-structured interview also confirm the findings, and most of the participants noted that interaction history is very significant, especially long-term cooperation. Long-term interaction experience can significantly reduce uncertainties in terms of the other party’s behaviours and thus improve trust.
Contracts and institutions
From Table 6, factor 2 explains 10.429 % of the total variance. The factor includes “fairness”, “mechanism for solving problems”, “third party supervision”, and “completeness of the contract”. We note that these variables concern the problem solving system, the rights and obligation allocation system, and third party supervision. It is straightforward to label this factor as “contracts and institutions factor”.
A contract with rigorous and comprehensive terms, a fair allocation of risks, an effective dispute resolution mechanism, and reliable supervision by independent agencies, is an institutional guarantee that protects the owners’ interests. Therefore, the contracts and institutions factor plays an important role in trust. Cheung et al. (2003) found that a clearly defined contract brings comfort and confidence to the owner and the contractor, which can promote trust building process. In addition, Wong and Cheung (2005) noted that problem-solving ability is a critical attribute for the development of trust. If a conflict is resolved friendly, trust will be built.
This factor is confirmed by the interviews. Some interviewees feel safer and more likely to trust the contractors if their interests are protected by a good contract and institutional arrangements.
Information sharing and communication
Factor 3 consists of three variables, information sharing, frequent communication and effective communication, which account for 8.713 % of the total variance. This factor is labelled “information sharing and communication”. By exchanging of information and reducing misunderstandings, communication enables the parties to recognise mutual benefits. Information sharing can signal the willingness of a partner to be transparent, which is a key attribute of trustworthiness in a relationship (Wong and Cheung 2005).
The importance of frequent and effective communication and information sharing to increasing trust levels was confirmed by Wong and Cheung (2005). If clear and accurate information is disseminated in a timely manner, uncertainty will be reduced, thereby reducing misunderstand and enabling partners to work better together, finally improving the trust.
Factor 4 includes “good intentions”, “mutual respect”, and “mutual interdependence”, which account for 7.536 % of the total variance (see Table 6). Good intentions mean that one party cares about the interests of the other party. Mutual respect means that a party treats the other equally and respectfully. Mutual interdependence means that both sides need to maintain their relationship.
Heide and John (1988) argued that mutual interdependence between enterprises comes from a “relation-specific investment” in maintaining cooperation, including investment in fixed assets, training and databases. Gundlach et al. (1995) argued that relation-specific investment is actually a type of attitudinal commitment reflecting the willingness to maintain cooperative relations and mutual recognition. A typical feature of a relation-specific investment is high sunk costs. If the relationship is broken, it is difficult to recover its value.
To some extent, mutual respect, good intentions and mutual interdependence are the result of a relation specific investment. Therefore, this factor is called relation specific investments.
Factor 5 consists of three variables: competence, confidence in the other, and goal achievement, which account for 7.177 % of the total variance (see Table 6). The competence of contractors means that they have the technological and managerial skills to complete the project strictly according to the contract. The literature shows that the competence of a trustee is a precondition of trust. When the owner perceives the contractor’s competence, it engenders confidence in the contractor. Higher competence means a greater likelihood of achieving the project goals. These three attributes are closely related to competence, so the factor is called competence.
Factor 6 consists of “consistency between efforts and rewards”, “reputation”, and “sense of social responsibility”, which account for 6.901 % of the total variance. Reputation is an opinion about a contractor that is typically the result of a social evaluation based on a set of criteria. Reputation is difficult to build but is easy to destroy. A reputable contractor always tends to behave ethically and in a trustworthy manner. If a contractor has high social responsibility, he cares about the interests and welfare of the public. Therefore, this factor is called reputation.
Factor 7 consists of three variables: “honesty”, “promise keeping”, and “behaviour reliability”, which account 6.329 % of the total variance. The factor is easy to interpret. If contractors always match their word with their deeds, they will be considered to be trustworthy.
Factor 8 includes only one variable: “opportunistic behaviour”. Opportunistic behaviour means that a contractor takes advantage of the owner’s weaknesses to improperly benefit. Obviously, opportunistic behaviour harms trust.
These factors can be classified into three different categories. Reputation factor, competence factor, promise-keeping factor, and opportunistic behaviours factor are attributes of the contractor. These attributes represent the premise and preconditions for establishing trust. Information sharing and communication factor, interaction history factor and relation-specific investment factor involve both parties and belong to the relational dimension. They are methods and channels for maintaining and improving trust. The contract and institution factor is an institutional aspect that guarantees trust establishment and maintenance.