China’s industrialization has famously caused its pollution problems to worsen, but that’s not necessarily because the Chinese value industry over air quality.

A Chinese woman covers her mouth as she makes her way along a busy intersection in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province. (AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Last week, the Associated Press reported that China told foreign embassies to stop publishing reports on air quality in the country and argued that it was unfair to measure Chinese air against American standards. But a recent poll showed that the majority of Chinese adults surveyed by Gallup in 2011 prioritized protecting the environment, even at the risk of curbing economic growth. Only one in five said economic growth should trump environmental protections.

The sentiments were similar in the other fast-growing BRIC economies, with the majority in Brazil and Russia also prioritizing the environment:

About three-quarters of the Chinese people surveyed also said they were satisfied with the quality of the air, water and efforts to preserve the environment in their country.

According to Gallup, though, China isn’t quite there when it comes to combatting pollution:

“China still lags behind developed countries in terms of efforts to protect the environment...Without aggressive strategies to combat pollution, China’s environmental problems will likely only worsen as its urban areas continue to expand.”

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