Hide and brag: the strategic use of media in China’s war on air pollution

Sung Eun Kim, Myriam Shiran, Ryan Kennedy, Ziyu Wang, Johannes Urpelainen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Air pollution is a pressing concern for the Chinese government. While an increase in public concern about air pollution can be politically costly for the regime, we show that the Chinese government proactively utilizes the news media to increase public awareness of air pollution instead of suppressing relevant information. By analyzing media coverage of air pollution by 161 government-controlled and commercially-oriented newspapers between 2000 and 2017, we find that government-controlled newspapers provide more extensive coverage of air pollution than commercially-oriented newspapers. This tendency has become more pronounced since China declared its war on air pollution. Automated text analysis further demonstrates that the news media under government control emphasized the government’s response to air pollution, while diverting attention away from the negative health effects of air pollution. The analysis suggests that an authoritarian government can strategically use the news media to enhance public support for pollution mitigation strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-160
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironmental Politics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Air pollution
  • China
  • media control
  • news media
  • war on pollution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Hide and brag: the strategic use of media in China’s war on air pollution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this