About the Harvard-China Project

Founded in 1993, the interdisciplinary Harvard-China Project, based in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), conducts peer-reviewed research on China’s economy, energy, atmospheric environment (both air pollution and greenhouse gases), and environmental health. The Project pursues two collaborative mandates: crossing disciplines and schools at Harvard and integrating Harvard-based research efforts with work by affiliates at Chinese universities.

It has built up research capacities in a range of fields: atmospheric transport and chemistry modeling; atmospheric measurement at a station near Beijing operated jointly with Tsinghua University; bottom-up assessment of air pollution and GHG emissions, tested against observations; investigation of renewable and low-carbon electric power potentials, including grid integration; general equilibrium modeling of China’s economy and energy use; modeling health impacts of pollution exposures; analyses of urban transport, land use, and environment; and integrated assessment of economic costs and environmental benefits of national policies to control emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases. 

The Project currently involves 10 faculty members from four Harvard schools and a similar number of collaborating professors in China, from disciplines ranging across natural, applied, and health sciences, economics, law, public policy, and other fields. 

The Project hosts regular research seminars and occasional university-wide public lectures, as well as research symposia at Harvard and in China. 

Michael McElroy, Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies, serves as the Chair of the China Project, while Chris Nielsen serves as the Executive Director. Dale W. Jorgenson, Samuel W. Morris University Professor, leads the major economics component of the Project.


Harvard Climate Change Experts Focus on China

The China Project received the first $3.75 million grant from the new Harvard Global Institute.
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Collaborations across Harvard University


  • Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences;
  • Faculty of Arts and Sciences (specifically, the Department of Economics and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences);
  • Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health (specifically, the Department of Environmental Health and Department of Health Policy and Management); and
  • Harvard Kennedy School of Government.


  • Tsinghua University, School of Environment;
  • Tsinghua University, School of Science, Center for Earth System Science;
  • Tsinghua University, School of Economics and Management;
  • Tsinghua University, School of Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering;
  • Nanjing University, School of the Environment; 
  • Peking University, School of Government, Research Center for Contemporary China;
  • Peking University, School of Physics, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences;
  • Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Department of Electrical Engineering;
  • Chinese Meteorological Administration, National Climate Center;
  • State Grid Research Institute; and
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research.

Some other Chinese institutes that have completed studies with us include Hong Kong Polytechnic University Department of Civil and Structural Engineering; Chinese University of Hong Kong, Department of Geography and Resource Management; and Beijing Medical University (now Peking University Health Science Center).

The China Project encourages partnerships with other universities by inviting scholars from diverse fields to visit the Project and work together with researchers here. We have hosted a series of researchers in environmental law (jointly with the Harvard Law School East Asian Legal Studies Program), from Wuhan University Law School, Xiamen University Law School, Shanghai Jiaotong University Law School, Tsinghua University Law School, and the University of Politics and Law. We have also hosted a series of scholars in environmental economics and/or energy economics from Renmin University School of Environment and Natural Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute for Policy and Management, Central University of Finance and Economics, National Bureau of Statistics, and Keio University in Japan.

In addition to our collaborations with universities in China, the Project maintains active ties to current minister-level officials with responsibilities on energy and environment. We have established an enduring relationship with QU Geping, founding administrator of what is now the Ministry of Environment, and XIE Zhenhua, who succeeded Qu and later became Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission and China’s Special Envoy on Climate Change. We use our rigorous, multi-dimensional research to engage with top Chinese leaders on the challenges of global development and environmental protection in a changing climate.


Initiated with a preliminary, stage-setting review published in the book Energizing China: Reconciling Environmental Protection and Economic Growth (McElroy, Nielsen, and Lydon 1998, HUCE/Harvard University Press), the Project has since consisted of an evolving series of studies on the many dimensions influencing atmospheric environment in China. These have ranged from small, single-researcher studies to expansive, multi-part projects that involve up to a dozen researchers working across disciplines and the U.S. and China, and include large data collection efforts in the field.

Read more about our five current research areas.

Research findings are reported in scholarly journals, books, and dissertations. They are also presented in seminars, research conferences and workshops, and policy briefings held at Harvard, in China, and elsewhere. Engineering and Applied Sciences and open to the public. We also organize public lectures and research conferences every year.

See our recent publications.

Engineering and Applied Sciences and open to the public. We also organize public lectures and research conferences every year.

Take a look at our seminars and events calendar.

Our Sponsors 

The China Project receives major support as the inaugural anchor grantee of the Harvard Global Institute.

Some of our other current or past sponsors include:

  • Energy Foundation China
  • V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation
  • Henry Luce Foundation
  • Bedminster Foundation and Dunwalke Trust
  • Cheung Yan Fund for Economics Research
  • Smeltzer Fund
  • Volvo Research and Educational Foundations
  • Ford Motor Company
  • China Three Gorges Corporation
  • China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development
  • U.S. National Science Foundation
  • U.S. Department of Energy
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Harvard University Climate Change Solutions Fund
  • Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center Hui Fund for Generating Powerful Ideas
  • Harvard China Fund 
  • Harvard Asia CenterHarvard University Weatherhead Center for International Affairs