Living under the dome: Individual strategies against air pollution in Beijing

Thomas Johnson*, Arthur P.J. Mol, Lei Zhang, Shuai Yang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Although poor air quality has been a fact of life for millions of Chinese citizens for at least two decades, individual actions to alleviate the impact of air pollution are a more recent phenomenon. Anecdotal evidence suggests that individualized responses to environmental risks and threats, which Andrew Szasz (2007) termed “inverted quarantine,” are becoming increasingly common in China. However, there is little indication about how far inverted quarantine prevails. To address this gap, in 2015 we surveyed over 1000 Beijing residents into strategies for coping with air pollution. The results are partly consistent with other findings in relation to food safety, providing further evidence of the prevalence of inverted quarantine in response to public health risks in contemporary China. Our empirical evidence also shows public skepticism about the efficacy of individualized solutions to ambient air pollution. Without a serious preventive alternative, inverted quarantine is, at best, a temporary expedient.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-117
JournalHabitat International
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Air pollution
  • China
  • Health risk
  • Inverted quarantine: Individualization


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