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Public Affairs

Dean may influence China environmental policy

July 31, 2006

Photo of Dean Joel KassiolaJoel Kassiola, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, and a group of five SF State faculty recently saw aspects of China that Americans, and even most of the country's citizens, rarely can access. With a provocative speech at the Chinese Central Party School in Beijing, Kassiola may also inspire the country's future development and environmental policies.

From June 9 to 18, a delegation from the new Center for U.S.-China Policy Studies at SF State traveled to China to present papers at various conferences, visit universities and explore opportunities for collaboration and exchange.

At the Central Party School -- the main training site for current and future government and Chinese Communist Party officials -- Kassiola told an audience of administrators, faculty, students and party officials that China should not develop itself in the way that the United States has, with little regard for the environment. With one-third of the world's population and exponential growth, China will have to determine alternatives to automobile transportation, sprawl and production of fossil fuels, Kassiola said.

"I got the idea that China was trying to copy us, and that is very bad environmentally and morally," said Kassiola, a political philosopher who teaches a course on The Politics and Ethics of the Consumer Society. "I tried to convince them that we are not a society to emulate. … China needs to find its own way to industrialize."

Kassiola offered no solutions, but emphasized the importance of the environment for China and the entire planet. Sixteen of the world's 20 most polluted cities are in China, according to the World Bank. The country is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide after the United States.

"It's not just a Chinese problem; it's the world's problem," Kassiola said. "Everyone in the world has to pay attention to China."

Jean-Marc F. Blanchard, assistant professor of international relations, also gave a speech at the Central Party School, focusing on political and economic relations between China and Japan.

Kassiola's speech and the following question-and-answer session struck a chord with the audience. Afterward, students surrounded him, showing an "absolute hunger for ideas about America and the place of China in the world," he said.

Liu Dexi, director of the Center for Agricultural, Rural and Peasant Studies at the Central Party School, said, "If China does not listen to Dean Kassiola's ideas, the world is doomed," according to Kassiola.

The next day, upon Liu's request, Assistant Professor of Geography and Human Environmental Studies XiaoHang Liu translated the text of Kassiola's speech to Chinese. The translated speech was then distributed to China central government and county leaders.

Just getting inside the Central Party School campus is a privilege that few Chinese citizens and foreigners enjoy. Rarely do American scholars pass through the gates and armed guards. Many people at the school had never previously seen Americans in person, Kassiola said.

Associate Professor of Political Science Sujian Guo, a China native who also serves as director of the Center for U.S.-China Policy Studies and president of the Association for Chinese Political Science, was able to arrange the Central Party School visit through contacts he has established through his scholarly work.

Faculty at the Central Party School and SF State may collaborate on research, Kassiola said. "If I can play a small role in [China] doing things a little differently, it will be a gratifying experience," Kassiola said.

-- Matt Itelson


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Last modified July 31, 2006 by University Communications