China is the world's most populous country and has one of the largest territories. As such, Chinese attitudes and behavior with regard to environmental issues are key factors in protecting the world's natural resources and environment. In this study, we surveyed a random sample of 5000 citizens from six Chinese provinces (Beijing, Shanghai, Hubei, Hunan, Henan, and Shaanxi) to understand their environmental attitudes, contrasts between the attitudes of citizens in different demographic groups, and their willingness to invest in environmental conservation. The results indicated that policymakers and the public increasingly recognize the key role that environmental restoration plays in protecting the overall health of the environment. In total, 91% of the interviewees believed that the environment had deteriorated severely during the past decade, compared with 44% in a 1999 survey. In addition, 78% of the interviewees supported their government's investment of more than 300 billion RMB (∼10% of total government revenues in 2004) in the “Grain for Green Project,” which discouraged unsustainable land use by compensating farmers and herders for abandoning farming and grazing on marginal land. There was a strong correlation between environmental attitudes and net income and education levels, and other differences were based on the respondents' age, gender, job, and location. Net income and education level were the key factors that affected environmental attitudes. Based on these results, we propose that successful environmental restoration projects must include both an education component and an economic development component.
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Vol. 38 • No. 1