Silencing the smog : an analysis of evolving forms of pollution protesting, repression and the emergence of rights consciousness in China’s war on pollution
Environmental consciousness and its manifestation through protests is on a continued rise in China. Throughout the countryside and the cities, pollution has become a major source of contention and unrest. The thesis will consider the duality of the Communist Party’s actions in introducing democratic elements in the war on pollution whilst simultaneously stifling public discussion of air pollution. The Party has signalled that its war on pollution is to be fought only from the top-down, the thesis will argue that the banning of the documentary Under the Dome, the street protests in Chengdu in December 2016 and its subsequent repression represent the tension inherent in China’s current transformation. Using social movement theory, the thesis will analyse the evolution in mobilisation strategies and actions of protest that have accompanied the rise in environmental consciousness showing that the ‘floodgates’ are open for collective grassroots action against pollution. The thesis will argue that despite the small size of the Chengdu protests, their occurrence is symptomatic of a growing rights consciousness that is accompanying the dramatic rise of environmental contention. Thus, demonstrating that ordinary people are more willing to engage in contentious politics in inventive ways than before to defend their right to clean air.