Conference Report (22–24 November 2018, Peking University, Beijing, China)
RCC fellows and alumni participated in the LMU-China Academic Network 4th Scientific Forum held on 22–24 November 2018, at Peking University in Beijing, China. Scholars joined their colleagues from Renmin University, Sun Yat-Sen University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Tongji University for the workshop “Environmental Pasts—Environmental Futures: Perspectives on China.” The event was chaired by RCC director Professor Christof Mauch, and the director of Peking University’s World History Center, Professor Maohong Bao. The workshop brought together scholars who work on China’s role in global, regional, and local environmental issues and perspectives.
Following a brief welcome and introduction, the first session, Chinese Environments in Global Perspective, kicked off. Shen Hou (Renmin University) provided an initial framing for the discussion, assessing the ideational and cultural underpinnings of China’s nature conservation policies; Sophia Kalantzakos (RCC) then offered a comparison between “ecological civilization” and “planetary boundaries”—two new grand narratives emerging in parallel in China and Europe. The subsequent presentations and animated discussions in this session tackled questions about China’s new global responsibility in protecting global intact forest landscapes (Elena Feditchkina Tracy, RCC/ WWF Russia), the changing narratives in the German media of China’s green transition (Fengmin Yang, Freie Universität Berlin), and the development of Chinese environmental history as a new discipline (Fei Sheng, Sun Yat-Sen University).
The concluding session focused on Regional Perspectives: Climate—Water—Energy. RCC doctoral candidate Pui Ting Wong, launched the session with a paper on residential electricity demand in an increasingly urbanized China. The presentations that followed explored the issues of contemporary forms of Chinese eco-activisms (Maxime Decaudin, HKU); approaches to rural/urban planning within the context of “eco-cities” and “eco-islands,” and the pressures of gentrification (RCC affiliate Linjun Xie, University of Nottingham); and landscapes and nature in Chinese tea culture (Volker Huebel, Tongji University).
The workshop demonstrated the rich and rapidly growing body of research on China’s environmental history and politics, and highlighted the RCC’s ongoing efforts to host research projects and facilitate knowledge exchange on China.
The LMU—China Academic Network was established in 2015 and now includes 10 of China’s most renowned universities, all of which are located in and around Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. The Annual Scientific Forum is an important element of the network’s structure, not only serving to generate ideas for collaborative ventures in research and teaching, but also helping to nurture and extend existing contacts and interactions.