Purpose - The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of corporate social responsibility (CSR) on firm performance in China, plus the moderating effects of advertising intensity and environmental pollution. Design/methodology/approach - We analyzed our dataset that consists of 188 public Chinese firms drawn from the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges during 2010-2020. Findings - Based on the stakeholder theory and signaling theory, we proposed the positive relationship between the CSR level and the firm performance. Further, we configured consumers and the government as major stakeholders in China, suggesting positive moderating effects of advertising intensity and environmental pollution, respectively. Research implications or originality - The results show that the CSR level increases the firm performance. The advertising intensity positively moderates the relationship between the CSR level and the firm performance, but there was no significant moderating effects of environmental pollution. The findings confirm the importance of consumers for the CSR stakeholders. While the Chinese government strongly reinforces environmental regulation, CSR itself does not seem to be the fine-aligned action prioritized for mitigating environmental pollution.