Conflict over mining in rural China: A comprehensive survey of intentions and strategies for environmental activism

Peter Ho*, Xiuyun Yang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
37 Downloads (Pure)


Mining causes severe adverse effects such as pollution and forced resettlement. Accordingly, it has prompted conflicts that are also evident in China. Our study assesses whether and how rural residents' engage in environmental activism (EA) against mining. This is achieved by constructing a model of EA strategies, coupled to variables that examine respondents' intentions. The model uses data from a survey (n = 352) covering 37 villages spread over 5 provinces and 1 provincial-level municipality. The model is based on a refinement of the theory of planned behavior (TPB). Various findings are reported: (1) a majority of respondents (77%) believes that pollution in the mining areas is serious; (2) there is pessimism about the effects of EA with 41% believing it does not improve the environment, and less than one-fifth feeling the government supports EA, contradictorily; (3) well over half has engaged in one or more forms of EA, while (4) dominant EA strategies consist of complaining to local government or village authorities (both over 40%), or open protest (opted for by over 17%); (5) economic dependency and gender affect the intention for EA, as those employed in mining and women are less inclined to participate. Whereas studies pointed to "inclined abstainers" or the "silent majority", this study ascertains that-with regard to mining-rural residents are not silent. We posit that a threshold of environmental endurance might have been reached. In this context, policymakers need to tackle the adverse effects of mining, as it is likely to generate more violent confrontations that ultimately pose risks to political credibility and social stability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1669
Pages (from-to)1-18
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Environmentalism
  • Farmers' resistance
  • Mining
  • Social conflict and protest


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