Image of Tom JohnsonThomas R Johnson

Lecturer in Politics

Contact Details:
Telephone: 0114 222 1654
Room: Lodge


I joined the Department in September 2016. After obtaining my PhD in 2009 from the University of Glasgow, I worked for seven years as Visiting Assistant Professor and then Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Policy at City University of Hong Kong.

My research focuses on Chinese politics. Specifically, I am interested in how people in China respond to pollution and in the interplay between regulation and contentious politics. I first visited China in 2001 where I spent three months teaching English in the beautiful city of Dalian during a long summer holiday. I enjoyed it so much that I returned the following year, enrolling in a full-time Mandarin course at China Ocean University in Qingdao. I have also spent time living in Tianjin and, in 2004, completed a six-month internship in the Trade and Economics Section of the European Union Delegation to China and Mongolia in Beijing.


My approach to teaching is based on the idea that students are unique and construct knowledge in different ways. I place high emphasis on student engagement and peer-to- peer learning. Rather than seeing myself as a conveyer of knowledge, my goal when teaching a course is to create an effective learning environment that encourages and empowers students to develop their own understandings of the topic.

I am currently teaching the following courses:

  • Philosophy and Methodology of Political Research
  • Contemporary Chinese Politics
PhD Supervision

I am happy to supervise PhD students in the area of Chinese politics.


My research is interested in state-society relations in China, particularly in relation to the field of environmental protection. I am interested in Chinese government attempts to address serious environmental problems through empowering the public to hold polluters to account. My research has examined the rationale and driving forces behind policies designed to promote public participation, how they affect non-state actors, and what the implications are for addressing environmental issues and politics more broadly. Another aspect of my work has been to understand how communities deal with the threat of pollution from waste incinerators. Part of this involves examining how community activism links up with established environmental actors such as NGOs, journalists, and lawyers. More recently, I have started to look at societal responses to ambient air pollution, including through “individualised solutions” and “smog art”.

Publications and Papers


Johnson, T (forthcoming). Municipal Solid Waste Management. Chapter 11, Routledge Handbook of China’s Environmental Policy (ed.) Eva Sternfeld. New York: Routledge.

Bondes, M &Johnson T (2017). Beyond Localized Environmental Contention: The Role of Diffusion for Anti-Incineration Contention in Hebei’s Panguanying Village, Journal of Contemporary China.

Johnson, T, Gong, T & Wang, W (2017). Regulatory Capture as a Two-Way Street: Hong Kong Small and Medium Enterprises in the Pearl River Delta Region. Chapter 11, Routledge Handbook of Corruption in Asia. New York: Routledge.

Johnson, T (2016). Regulatory Dynamism of Environmental Mobilization in Urban China. Regulation & Governance 10 (1), pp 14–28.

Johnson, T (2015). Environmental Information Disclosure and Civil Society Innovation in China. Chapter 3, Civil Society Contributions to Policy Innovation in the PR China, (ed.) Andreas Fulda.Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Johnson, T (2014). Good Governance for Environmental Protection in China: Instrumentalism, Strategic Interactions, and Unintended Consequences. Journal of Contemporary Asia 44 (2), pp241–258.

Johnson, T & Wang G (2014). China. Chapter 9, Comparative Public Administration (Second Edition) (ed.) Jim Chandler. London: Routledge.

Johnson, T (2013). The Health Factor in Anti-Waste Incinerator Campaigns in Beijing and GuangzhouThe China Quarterly 214, pp 356–375.

Johnson, T (2013). The Politics of Waste Incineration in Beijing: The Limits of a Top-Down Approach?Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning 15 (1), pp 109–128.

Johnson, T (2011). Environmental information disclosure in China: Policy developments and NGO responses. Policy & Politics 39 (3), pp 399–416.

Johnson, T (2010). Environmentalism and NIMBYism in China: Promoting a Rules-Based Approach to Public Participation. Environmental Politics 19 (3): 430–448.

Johnson, T (2008). New Opportunities, Same Constraints: Environmental Protection and China’s New Development Path. Politics 28 (2): 93–102.

View full list of publications

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