On Saturday night I arrived back in D.C. after finishing my two-week lecture tour of China. The trip was sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Undersecretariat for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. On the trip I traveled to six Chinese cities in every consular district of the country and I delivered a total of 15 lectures at universities, professional associations and the Ministry of Environmental Protection. The trip was organized by U.S. embassy and consular staff who accompanied me and provided interpreters for each of my lectures.
On Monday May 11 I participated in an environmental research roundtable at Tsinghua University’s Center for U.S.-China Relations. Students from Tsinghua and Peking University discussed various research projects they are conducting and I offered some perspective on developments in global environmental law. On Monday night I had a reunion with my former students when I gave a lecture on “How Safe Is ‘Safe’?” at the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) in Beijing. He Bing, associate dean of the CUPL’s Law School, gave me a warm introduction and responded to my presentation, which discussed the history of environmental health and safety regulation, including the global response to the H1N1 virus. After my lecture, the students who were members of CUPL’s International Environmental Moot Court team took me out to dinner at Aimo Town, a wonderful Yunnan restaurant in Haidian. It was really great to get to spend time with them -- one of the real highlights of my trip.
On Tuesday morning I flew to Chongqing where I was met at the airport by Nancy Corbett, Steven Lacey, and Shen Kai from the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu. They had driven four hours from Chengdu to host my two-day visit in Chongqing. After I checked into our hotel, Nancy led us on an afternoon hike to the Po Lun Temple, a Buddhist temple dating originally from the sixth century that sits on a hill overlooking the Jialing River. On Tuesday night we were guests at a dinner hosted by the Chongqing University School of Law where I met university vice-president Chen Demin, Director of the Institute of Sustainable Development; Wenge Zeng, vice dean of the law school; and Dr. Huang Xisheng, deputy dean and director of the Environment and Resources Law Research Center of West China. They discussed their efforts to expand environmental law offerings at Chongqing University.
On Wednesday I spoke at the Chongqing Academy of Social Sciences on “The Globalization of Environmental Law.” The audience for the lecture included not only students from some of the universities in Chongqing, but also several environmental professionals including officials from some of the local environmental protection bureaus. During the question and answer session after my lecture, one of the students asked me how bad the pollution was in Beijing when I lived there last year and whether I thought the effort to produce a “Green Olympics” had had any lasting effect. Beijing has experienced more “blue sky” days this year, though the pollution there on Monday made it had to tell if it whether or not it was cloudy. Chongqing officials also discussed their efforts to measure the city’s carbon footprint and the difficulty of reducing dependence on fossil fuels for electricity production. After my lecture, the consular staff and I attended a lunch in our honor at a restaurant overlooking the river. Some of the local environmental officials at the lunch noted that they have been dealing with considerable environmental fallout from the Three Gorges Dam, which is located 118 miles down the Yangtze River from Chongqing. Farmers are convinced that the Dam has caused fundamental changes in local weather patterns, reducing rainfall in the area.
On Wednesday afternoon I spoke at the Southwest University of Political Science and Law in Chongqing. I was delighted that Professor Cao Mingde, a former professor at Southwest who has now joined Wang Canfa’s faculty at CUPL, flew in from Beijing with his wife in order to host my lecture. After a spirited post-lecture discussion with the audience of whether China should agree to control its emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), Professor Cao, his wife, and other university officials hosted a dinner for us on our last night in Chongqing.
On Thursday morning I flew from Chongqing to Shanghai where I gave an afternoon program at the U.S. Consulate that was attended by faculty and students from three Shanghai universities - Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and Tongji University. Scott Walker from the Shanghai U.S. Consulate General hosted the program. The audience was incredibly knowledgeable about U.S. environmental law, discussing the latest controversies over environmental standing. Some of them indicated that they use my environmental law casebook. On Thursday night I had some great discussions of Chinese politics over dinner with Dan Guttman and Wieland Wagner, the Shanghai correspondent for Der Spiegal.
On Friday Scott Walker and I headed to Suzhou where I spoke about climate change in both the morning and the afternoon. In the morning I addressed a group of scientists at the Suzhou Association for Science and Technology. Dr. Chen Yuqun, president of the Shanghai Academic Society of Ecological Economy (SASEE), introduced me. SASEE is a non-government research organization that was founded in 1989. Dr. Chen is an urban eco-economist who has been studying the impact of urbanization on the environment for a quarter century. My lecture sparked a discussion of how climate change already was affecting China and why its effects will be more harmful than beneficial. After my lecture, Ming Liang, president of the Association for Science and Technology hosted a lunch for us. In the afternoon I spoke to a wonderful audience of more than 100 students and faculty at the Suzhou University Law School. Professor Zhu, who teaches environmental law at Suzhou University, introduced me. After the lecture, when a student asked why the U.S. rejected the Kyoto Protocol, I replied that George Bush rejected it, but not the American people. Professor Zhu then challenged me to explain why this answer was consistence with the Hagel resolution adopted by the U.S. Senate prior to the Kyoto conference and President Clinton’s refusal to submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification. That illustrated what a sophisticated audience this was, which may explain why we had the best discussion on my trip of why it is vital for China to agree to limit its GHG emissions.
Back in Shanghai on Friday night, I met Charlie McElwee of Squire Sanders for drinks at the Urbn Hotel, a supposedly carbon neutral venue. I was delighted to learn that Charlie is working on a book on Chinese Environmental Law to be published by Oxford University Press. Following drinks I had dinner with Professor Zhao Huiyu from Shanghai Jia Tong University Law School, Zhang Zee Zee from Roots & Shoots Shanghai and Dan Guttman. Professor Zhao is currently working as director of research for the Shanghai judiciary where she is learning a great deal about the results of efforts to strengthen the rule of law in China.
This was the most intense two weeks I have spent in China during my many trips there. I am enormously grateful to the State Department for giving me the opportunity to take this trip and to the U.S. foreign service officers at the Embassy and each of our four U.S. consulates who spent their time assisting with it. I am particularly grateful to the fabulous interpreters that the embassy and consulates provided for my lectures.
This trip gave me a rare opportunity to interact with faculty, students, environmental professionals and government officials from all over China. I got a clear sense that the Chinese intelligentsia is starting to understand the importance of controlling their country’s GHG emissions, even if their government continues to reject efforts to get them to agree to controls at the upcoming Copenhagen conference. In my lectures I highlighted the argument that China should not have to control emissions caused by the production of goods for export (see March 22, 2009 and June 15, 2008 blog posts) and why it falls apart on several levels and serves as an invitation to carbon tariffs on Chinese goods. I hope that my talks on these and other important environmental issues planted some seeds that eventually will blossom.