Chinese (in)action: Seeing breathing as a means to understand citizens’ (in)action
Abstract: Civic engagement plays an important role in governmental transparency – so how does transparency work in a non-democracy like China where the political and juridical systems repress public participation? Through quantitative methods this paper examines how a selection of citizens in Shanghai, China, make use of environmental information made available through the Chinese government’s Open Environmental Information (OEI) transparency measures. The findings indicate that information on air quality is only utilized by a small percentage of the research sample, while the majority do not adhere to warnings of heath risks associated with smog. Previous studies show that, while the country’s polluted air, soil and water cause hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year, public engagement and participation in environmental affairs in China remains low. Theories hold that for information disclosure to lead to anything other than words and numbers on a paper it must first change people’s perceptions and behaviour. It is hypothesised that the individuals in the research sample did not protect themselves because the air pollution data did not create enough awareness of associated health risks to induce a change of behaviour.
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