Why as nuclear power experienced lower public resistance in China? – Examining anti-nuclear activism and knowledge-control regime

Author: Hepeng Jia – Department of Communication, Cornell University, China


  • Lifeng Deng – School of Communication & Design, Sun Yat-sen University, China

Scientific controversies have been a main issue in science communication scholarship. Different controversies have shown divergent patterns. Yet scholars have failed to examine multiple factors that lead to the various modes.

In China, as compared with the West in the 1970s and 1980s, and with other controversial technologies such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), controversies surrounding nuclear power have been extremely low-profiled. To understand the different pattern, we adopted the framework of the knowledge-control regime to examine the media landscape of nuclear power in China, then investigate media’s knowledge production regarding the energy, and finally explore the control and monopoly on knowledge production within the atomic power sector and in the sector’s public outreach activities.

Chinese media have been generous in framing nuclear power development as the symbols of national honor, S&T progress, and independent innovation even after the Fukushima accident. Chinese journalists structurally avoided news topics questioning nuclear power for higher perceived risk and less recognized rewarding. A stable media- nuclear power relationship also contributed to the knowledge-control regime in Chinese more favorable to the nuclear power sector.

For the internal knowledge production process, the monopoly in knowledge production caused by nuclear science’s natural characteristics is coupled with the power concentration as reflected by the number of top academics owned by the sector and their dominance in public agenda. With the nuclear power sector’s glorious historical images, as well as its active science communication, effective uncertainty management, and friendly interaction with the media, the internal knowledge control is effectively “exported” to help maintain a generally higher public acceptance. Hence, we identify the knowledge-control regime(s) surrounding the nuclear power sector and concludes it has effectively curbed anti-nuclear activism in China. Implications are also discussed.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Technology