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"Pollution Without Revolution"

Haze-shrouded highway in Zhangjiang Pudong District, Shanghai, China, December 2013.
Wikimedia Commons CC

"Pollution Without Revolution"

Journal Article, Foreign Affairs

June 11, 2014

Author: Scott Moore, Former Giorgio Ruffolo Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Sustainability Science Program/Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group, 2012–2014

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Energy Technology Innovation Policy; Environment and Natural Resources; Science, Technology, and Public Policy


On a smoggy day this past February, Chinese President Xi Jinping did a remarkable thing: he went for a stroll outside without the face mask that Beijingers often don to protect themselves against the capital's air pollution. With Xi's grin on full display, the political message was unmistakable. "In the Midst of Smog, Xi Jinping Tours Beijing," a headline in state-run media declared the next day. "He Breathes the Same Air and Shares the Same Fate."

To many observers, Xi's stroll through the smog hinted at Beijing's concern that environmental issues could drive widespread opposition to the regime. In recent decades, the idea that environmental crises can help drive democratic reforms has gained popular credence. Perhaps most notably, some historians have argued that the Soviet Union's bungled response to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster helped to hasten its demise. Others have documented how environmental issues helped to galvanize new opposition movements in eastern Europe, South Korea, and Taiwan....

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For Academic Citation:

Moore, Scott M. "Pollution Without Revolution." Foreign Affairs (June 11, 2014).

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