Communication, Culture, and Governance in Asia| Opinion Leadership, Media Use, and Environmental Engagement in China
This study examines predictors of environmental engagement among Chinese citizens, paying particular attention to their leadership qualities and their news and social media use. Using a measure of environmental engagement that incorporates both activist (petitions, protests) and consumerist behaviors (boycotting and buycotting), we find that self-perceived opinion leadership, news media use, and Weibo use are all significant predictors of environmental engagement, partially mediated by environmental knowledge. We also explore interactions between opinion leadership and media use, showing differential impact of news and social media use on environmental knowledge and engagement in China. More specifically, we find that the use of social media benefits people with higher levels of opinion leadership more, widening the knowledge and participation gap between them and those lower in leadership qualities. In contrast, the use of news media narrows the gap in environmental knowledge and engagement, allowing citizen who do not perceive themselves to be opinion leaders to catch up with those who do so. The implications of these findings for promoting environmental engagement in authoritarian contexts are discussed.