Most Chinese Say Pollution is a Big Problem and Should be Made a Top Priority

  • Published on August 18th, 2008

Will Olympics illuminate pollution problem enough for gov’t. to act?

Pew Research Center In a recent survey of over 3,000 Chinese citizens, environmental issues emerged as a big problem in the eyes of the majority of respondents.** The 2008 survey, conducted as part of the Pew Research Center’s Pew Global Attitudes Project, found that about three quarters of those surveyed (74%) cite air pollution as a big problem. 66% of respondents ranked water pollution as a big problem.

But not only did Chinese say they were concerned about environmental problems, but they also said something should be done about it. As many as 80% of Chinese think protecting the environment should be made a priority, even if this results in slower growth and a potential loss of jobs. The new data suggest the Chinese people may be struggling with some of the consequences of economic growth.

What I find most striking about these results are: A) That concern for the environment is so salient among the Chinese, that people are willing to sacrifice some economic growth and jobs to take steps towards correcting those environmental problems, and B) That the concern for the environment was based on “pollution” themes. Pollution-based environmental problems are salient because they are visible, tangible, and ‘real’ products of industrial growth (as can be witnessed in this excellent series of short films). These types of problems were also perceived as very important to Americans in the late 1960s and early 1970s, before the U.S. enacted its core environmental policy. Can we expect that to be the next for China? And if so, when will that next step actually commence?

**Methodology: “Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 3,212 adults in China between March 28 and April 19, 2008, a period which followed the March 10 onset of civil unrest on Tibet and preceded the May 12 earthquake in China’s Sichuan Province. The sample, which is disproportionately representative of China’s urban areas, includes eight major cities, as well as medium-sized towns and rural areas in eight Chinese provinces. The area covered by the sample represents approximately 42% of the country’s adult population.”

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Pew Research Center

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.


  • I think China needs to take better care of the envoirnment. In the long run it will be big problem. Also chinese government needs to pay attention to Tibetan and Ughurs problems. They need to give them more freedom, Tibetans girls were taken to China for better job and make money instead when they arrive in China, everthing is false and they are forced to marry Chinese men. Young men of Tibetan were taken by police in the middle of the night in their homes and taken to prison, no information to family, were tortured and beaten and put in the dark room. there are cameras in every monestries and temple to watch the monks for every steps they take. if they find picture of his holiness the Dalai lama, they were put in prison and beaten or even killed. Tibetan were forced to lean chinese to get job, many tibetan have no job and begging in the street. kids are not educated and worst part is Chinese government lied to the chinese people about how they treat tibetan. Tibetan people do not need money, big house, wealth, we simply want inner happiness and freedom of practice own religion, protect oour culture and basic human rights. please help us. Tibetan do not hate chinese, we are projustice, tibetan want justice. WE are not lonking for INDEPENTENT, ONLY LOOKING FOR GENIUN AUTONOMY WITHIN CHINA. it benefit to both chinese and tibetan..chinese people also deserv to leanr the fact. visit or

  • well i think that Beijing is like a pretty place just needs to be a bet clearn well actully ive been to New York and i liked it there Beijing is alot naster it needs to be cleaned up alot! But China has alot of pretty nature beuty so i rather them trash there then the other pretty parts of China.r

  • With all the industrialization and all the products which I use in the US that say "made in china". I wouldn't be surprised there is so much pollution there.

  • The working Chinese, those that are exposed to the brunt of the pollution there, will become a fast breeding, early dying treasure to China. Here in the U.S. the life of our working class has been extended to the point where even life-insurance sales by the uber-class is no longer profitable. We must reexamine our longer term goals and perhaps legalize pot smoking as a life-shortening leisure activity to defer the cost of housing and caring for a growing older population. Cigarette smoking at one time, limited the life-span and therefore the social obligation to laboring people, giving rise to considerable corporate and share-holder profits and survivability for the uber-class. The Chinese management, wisely, have life-limiting pollution as a built in, coal fired, guarantee of ROI.

  • Hi,

    As mentioned in this I hope for them that the environmental 'clean' facade doesn’t collapse after the Olympic games when the media and the hype – and thus the focus on China – is gone.


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