Scholars, commentators and Chinese policymakers point to air pollution as a possible challenge to the popular standing of the Communist Party of China’s rule. However, the question of whether air pollution is systematically linked with Chinese citizens’ attitudes toward authorities has not been studied for the country as a whole, during the past decade’s surge in attention to environmental problems. Analyzing high-quality, nationally representative survey data in combination with satellite-based PM2.5 estimates, this research finds that citizens who perceive local air to be of bad quality have lower probability than others for expressing trust in county and provincial governments. Air pollution did not make a significant difference to probability for trusting central government. The study contributes to hierarchical trust literature and identifies differential trust dynamics for observed and perceived air pollution and over time, across Mainland China’s population.