This week I attended a three-day orientation program for new Fulbright scholars in China, sponsored by the State Department’s Fulbright Program. Since there is no Fulbright Commission in China, the orientation was run by the U.S. Embassy. The program, which was held at the Swissotel in Beijing, brought together past and present Fulbright scholars who provided wide-ranging advice on living and teaching in China. It included briefings from political and medical officers from the embassy, a reception at the home of Daniel Piccuta, deputy chief of the U.S. Mission, lunch with Chinese Fulbright alumni, a visit to a Confucian temple, and dinner and dancing at the Makayame Tibetan Restaurant. It was a great opportunity to get to know the other Fulbrighters in China, many of whom I had met at the Washington, D.C. orientation last June. It also was fun to talk international politics with embassy personnel. Photos from the orientation can be viewed online at: http://gallery.mac.com/rperci/100084 A short video clip of dancing at the Tibetan restaurant is online at: http://gallery.mac.com/rperci/100094.
Beijing is considered a “hardship” post by the State Department in part because of the severity of the air pollution. Fortunately both traffic and pollution in Beijing have been lighter than normal in the past week. Embassy staff attributed this in part to the fact that many people were still taking Spring Festival vacations that had been delayed by the severe weather that hit China weeks ago. One diplomat noted that the fact that traffic and pollution levels could be noticeably affected by vacations illustrated how much motor vehicle ownership had penetrated into the Chinese middle class.
While at the Swissotel I ran into three former co-workers from my days at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) during the 1980s - Linda Greer and Susan Egan-Keane, who are now scientists at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and David Lennett, a former EDF lawyer who is now a consultant for NRDC. They were meeting with staff from the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV), the Chinese public interest environmental group run by Wang Canfa, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law where I am teaching this semester. I attended part of their meeting to launch the joint China-NRDC Public Health and Law Project on Friday. The project initially will focus on using NRDC’s legal and scientific expertise to assist CLAPV in seeking redress for villagers harmed by pollution from mining waste.
In talking to embassy staff, I learned that Major League Baseball will soon be making its debut in China. On March 15-16, the Los Angeles Dodgers will play two spring training exhibition games in Beijing against the San Diego Padres at Wukesong Stadium, where the Olympic baseball competition will be held. One of the owners of the Dodgers, Jamie McCourt, who is an alum of the University of Maryland School of Law, will be accompanying the team. My dean is trying to arrange tickets through her because the dean and a group of other Maryland faculty and students will be visiting me in China then during Maryland’s spring break.