Spatial analysis of citizens’ environmental complaints in China: Implications in environmental monitoring and governance

Xuepeng Ji, Daoqin Tong, Lisha Cheng, Xiaowei Chuai, Xiyan Mao, Binglin Liu, Xianjin Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Citizen environmental complaints play a key role in China’s current environmental monitoring network and environmental governance system. Based on 5796 cases of environmental complaints lodged by citizens via hotline and the internet to the MEP of China, we examined the spatial characteristics and influencing factors of citizen complaints for the period of 2013–2017 using spatial analysis methods and spatial econometric models. The roles of citizen complaints in the two systems were then reevaluated. The results show that, among all cases, 75.88% of cases were identified as verified complaints, while nearly a 25% noisy rate directed large amounts of inspection resources to be utilized in response to nonverified cases. Air pollution received the most attention by citizens in China, accounting for 67.22% of total cases. The hotspots of citizen complaints were mostly distributed in the three major national urban agglomerations in China. We found that industrial wastewater and SO2 were positively associated with the likelihood of citizens filing complaints, while the effect of industrial soot/dust emission was insignificant. Citizen complaints might be triggered by certain, but not all, forms of pollutants, even though highly visible particulate pollutants did not necessarily induce corresponding complaints. Moreover, the negative relationship between citizen complaints and per capita GDP revealed the unbalanced geographical pattern between economical development and environmental quality. The proliferation of the internet greatly facilitated citizens lodging complaints through various ways. The synergy mechanism between citizen environmental complaints and other parts in China’s environmental monitoring and governance system should be established in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9674
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • China
  • Citizen environmental complaints
  • Hotline and internet
  • Influencing factors
  • Spatial characteristics
  • Spatial regression models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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