17 Pages

Pollution, Institutions and Street Protests in Urban China

WithYang Zhong, Wonjae Hwang

Street protests have become commonplace in China. Utilizing extensive survey data, this study attempts to shed light on the nature of environmental street protests in China. The key question to be answered in the article is: why, facing the same issue, do some people choose the option of participating in street protests while others do not? Multivariate analytical findings indicate that Chinese urban residents' willingness to participate in street protests over a hypothetical pollution issue in China is significantly related to their attitudes toward institutions in China. What motivates people to participate in street protests has a lot to do with their trust and support of the political system in China and their perceived government transparency. In other words, these protests are not just what Lewis Coser calls ‘realistic conflicts’ which primarily involve specific issues and solutions. One implication from this study is that street protests in China may not be as benign and non-regime threatening as some scholars might think.