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Environmental street protest in China: Resources, framing process, and political opportunity of contentious collective action in an authoritarian country


China has experienced a wave of large environmental protests against anticipated and actual environmental risks since the middle of the 2000s. The protestors have adopted various forms of protest to tackle environmental problems including petition, boycotts, occupations, and street protests. In China, the Chinese government declared street protests as illegal “mass incidents” (群体性事件), which may disrupt social stability and undermine the legitimacy of the regime. Hence, compared to democratic countries where street protests are a legal form of exerting pressure on the government, the costs of participation in illegal environmental street protests in China are considerably higher. In this context, why do people in China still choose the form of street protest to address environmental problems? What mobilizes people to take on considerable individual risks and join environmental protests? By discussing these questions, this PhD project studies different participation rates of environmental street protests across different regions in China and analyzes factors influencing such variation in participation rates. In doing so, this research not only can contribute to the empirical studies of environmental protest in China but it can also challenge the received wisdom of social movement literature drawn largely from western democratic countries.