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Conservation & development with an eye on China.
A Tibetan family near the town of Zoigê in northwestern Sichuan Province.

Poverty alleviation has been one of the hottest topics in China over the past few years, and the level of international buzz intensified over the second half of 2020 as the Communist Party made clear its claim that it had effectively eliminated absolute poverty from the countryside. While the Chinese media and government are unified in their claims as to the eradication of domestic poverty, a global debate has been sparked as to whether those claims are true and whether poverty is being measured in accordance with the country’s level of development.

A Gobi bear in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, the subject of one of China’s recent wildlife conservation technical assistance programs. (via Gobi Bear Project)

On January 10th, China’s State Council Information Office released the white paper《新时代的中国国际发展合作》, or “China’s International Development Cooperation in the New Era.” The document covers China’s international aid in recent years and plans to continue and expand moving forward. The document makes reference to General Secretary Xi Jinping’s speech at the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York, in which he pledged to support the “six 100s”, or 100 projects in six different categories of international aid in developing countries over the following five years. …

As Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated as the United States’ 26th President in January, the conversation in the policy sphere seems to be centered primarily around what changes a return to Democrat-led policy may entail. Among others, the United States’ strategic approach to China and climate change are two issues foremost in the discourse, and many see climate as the most promising area of cooperation between China and the United States against a backdrop of growing economic competition and foreign policy clashes. Ultimately the climate crisis is incredibly complex and will require a large degree of cooperation. …

On August 4, 2020, President Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act, touted as the biggest conservation legislation of this generation and passing with huge bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate. The act will invest up to $1.9 billion per year over the next five years to be used in updating and maintaining the infrastructure that allows Americans to enjoy their national parks and public lands. It also authorizes another $900 million in royalties from offshore oil and natural gas for use by The Land and Water Conservation Fund in conservation and recreation projects across the country…

In 2015, the Smithsonian Institute signs an agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association to cooperate on Giant Panda research and breeding. Photo: Meghan Murphy via Smithsonian Insider.

Flip on the TV, browse world news headlines, or just listen to the rhetoric of the Trump Administration —a significant chunk of Western media paints China as the shady dealer in most international economic and environmental affairs. Fear-mongering on what the world might become under Chinese leadership has been a trend for a while now — some of it warranted, some of it unwarranted. Nevertheless we are undoubtedly entering an age in which the Chinese people and government will be playing a much larger and potentially majority role in all foreign affairs from economic development to conflict and peace.

Part Three of a three-part series. (1, 2)

Professor Li discusses threats to the boundaries of the new national park with Dujiangyan Forestry Department and TNC staff.

Community-based conservation is not a new concept, but it is one that takes on a new level of importance in China. Whereas in many western countries, it is possible to find sparsely populated or uninhabited swaths of wilderness, in China it is common to come across communities that have existed for at least hundreds of years. Working with these local communities — many of which are located on or around critical biodiversity areas — thus becomes one of the biggest obstacles and most important issues in Chinese conservation.

Part Two of a three-part series. (1, 3)

Undergraduate students watch a demonstration by a third-party environmental education organization at Longxi-Hongkou.

Nature and environmental education is a key goal of the growing conservation movement in China, and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is working closely with the Longxi-Hongkou Reserve Management Bureau and the Dujiangyan Forestry Department to build an environmental education curriculum worthy of welcoming tourists to the Giant Panda National Park. Situated near Dujiangyan City & Scenic Area — already a nationally-recognized tourism district — Longxi-Hongkou Reserve is in prime position to introduce tourists to the abundant natural resources and biodiversity of the Hengduan Mountains.

Part One of a three-part series. (2, 3)

A giant panda chomps on bamboo at Chengdu’s Panda Research Base.

The Longxi-Hongkou Nature Reserve is located in Dujiangyan City, Sichuan Province, China, just west of the metropolis of Chengdu and nestled on the edge of the Hengduan Mountain Range. This wide-ranging swath of jagged mountains extends 900 kilometers across the Yunnan, Sichuan, and Qinghai Provinces, marking the easternmost edge of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Across most of the range, local communities boast a mix of Tibetan, Qiang, Hui, Han Chinese, and other minority cultures among some of the most mesmerizing natural backdrops in the world.

A giant panda chews on bamboo at the Panda Breeding & Research Center in Chengdu, Sichuan.

In this article, I will explain what my research and experience has taught me about the role of China in protecting the world’s environment moving forward is, and explore the issue of public engagement from my on-the-ground studies. My goal in this draft is not to propose solutions, but to share my current thoughts on the responsibility China will have to conserve the world’s ecosystems for future generations.


In the 21st century, China’s influence across the developing world is shaping at an unprecedented rate, its global influence manifesting as overseas investment projects, political alliances, and economic deals that will leave…

A kava plantation in Fiji.

It was a typical sunny day in the San Francisco Bay Area — a bit cold for my LA-born acclimation, but sunny nonetheless — in September of 2015. A group of delegates from the Fiji Ministry of Agriculture gathered around Acting Permanent Secretary Uraia Waibuta.

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