Offshore oil and gas drilling provides societies with billions of dollars in profit, employs millions of people, and offers substantial tax income for governments. However, the sector simultaneously poses substantial risks of polluting the marine environment and threatening marine biodiversity. Given the competing interests in offshore drilling, knowledge of citizens’ attitudes is of vital importance .
In our research we found that Chinese coastal residents have low levels of support, high risk-perception, and moderate trust in offshore oil and gas drilling. They are concerned about the frequency of large-scale oil spills, threats to human life (including the risks of getting cancer) and threats to marine life. NIMBY mentality is apparent in coastal residents’ support toward offshore drilling and they tend to trust scientific statements from environmental groups more than from the oil industry.
It is not difficult to comprehend why coastal residents are reluctant to support offshore oil and gas drilling in China. On one hand, traditional Chinese culture favors the harmonious coexistence of human beings and the environment. Confucianism promotes the concept of “tianren heyi,” which refers to harmony between human society and nature. Taoism promotes a “wuwei” philosophy, which has no tolerance for human action that is against the laws of nature. As two cornerstones of traditional Chinese culture, Confucianism and Taoism deeply ingrain an environmental-friendly belief in the Chinese mindset. Offshore drilling will alter the appearance of nature and jeopardize the balance of the marine ecosystem, therefore contradicting the Chinese ideal of harmonious coexistence.