This week I stayed in Beijing where I gave guest lectures at Renmin University School of Law and the China University of Geosciences. After my Monday class at the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) I had a belated birthday celebration dinner hosted by Professors Wang Canfa and Hu Jing. Wang Canfa has just returned from Japan where he accepted a prestigious award from the Japanese Economic Review. The award came with a substantial cash prize that he has donated to the Chinese earthquake relief effort. Due to the earthquake, his stint as an Olympic torchbearer has been postponed by three days to June 13. Also attending the dinner was Wang Xiaohui, a Ph.D. student in my Environmental Law class who has received a grant from Probe International to spend six weeks in the United States this summer. I was delighted to be able to put her in touch with Professors Dan Cole and Eric Dannenmaier of Indiana University School of Law who have graciously agreed to host her while she is in the United States.
On Wednesday May 28 I presented a guest lecture on “Energy and the Environment: The Pursuit of a More Sustainable U.S. Energy Policy” at Renmin University School of Law. Environmental law professor Li Yanfang, who was a visiting scholar at the University of Maryland School of Law during the 2006-2007 academic year, introduced me to the audience, which consisted of professors and students from four law schools in Beijing. Professor Wang Mingyuan from Center for Environment, Resources and Energy Law at Tsinghua University Law School was one of the commentators on my presentation. He was joined as a commentator by Zhou Ke, Director of Renmin University’s Environmental Law Research Institute. The lecture gave me an opportunity to explore a new topic for me that has become increasingly important in light of soaring global oil prices. I expressed a preference for policies that seek to tax environmentally damaging energy sources over subsidies that seek to encourage particular alternative fuels such as ethanol. I also made a strong pitch for why the U.S. and China inevitably will have to take strong action to control their emissions of greenhouse gases.
After teaching my Comparative Law class at CUPL on Thursday May 29, I presented a guest lecture on “The Emergence of Global Environmental Law” at the China University of Geosciences. This university has a large campus located between CUPL and Tsinghua. A lively audience of faculty and students engaged me in a lengthy dialogue after the lecture on China’s environmental policies and how developing countries should respond to the global climate crisis. On Thursday night I participated in a conference call with some officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva to discuss a request by some developing countries for assistance in developing more effective mechanisms for holding multinational corporations accountable for the health effects of their pollution.
One of my nieces, Mary Ryan, is now in Beijing visiting me. She is an executive in New York with Otis Elevator Company, a division of United Technologies. While in Shanghai earlier in the week she inspected the Otis equipment in the new World Financial Center tower, which will briefly be the world’s tallest building when it is completed next month in Pudong. I asked her to visit my class to speak about the environmental, health and safety policies followed by a multinational corporation in developing countries and she did a fantastic job. On Saturday we visited the 798 Art District in Beijing where we had a great reunion with friends from Namibia and Equatorial Guinea who attended college at Peking University in the late 1990s with Mary’s sister Melissa. They initially had been sent to China to learn Chinese in anticipation of future careers in the diplomatic corps for their respective countries. They have now mastered Chinese, but their countries embassies have decided that they don’t need anyone on staff who is fluent in the local language. As a result they are teaching Korean children in an exclusive international school.