The Nature and Bases of Environmental Concern among Chinese Citizens


  • An earlier version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Atlanta, Georgia, 2010. The authors will share all data and coding for replication purposes.

Direct correspondence to Chenyang Xiao, Department of Sociology, American University, Washington, DC 20016 〈〉.



Despite growing efforts to assess the views of Chinese citizens toward environmental issues, a crucial question remains unanswered: Do Chinese have a coherent system of environmental attitudes and beliefs as has been found among North Americans, making it appropriate to speak of “environmental concern” or “environmental consciousness” in China? To answer this question we use the belief system perspective and examine the degree of constraint among various environmental attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors reported by Chinese citizens, and also examine the social bases of their environmental concern.


We use data from a 2003 nation-wide survey in China and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to test a relatively comprehensive model of environmental concern. Then we construct a structural equation model (SEM) to examine the social bases of such concern.


The CFA results suggest that Chinese citizens have a reasonably coherent sense of generalized environmental concern, and the SEM results show that the higher educated, males, government employees, residents of large cities, and those affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party are more environmentally concerned than their counterparts.


The general public in China possesses a relatively coherent environmental belief system, similar to that found among North Americans, and education is a powerful predictor of environmental concern among the Chinese.