Introduction to the Project

The China Project is an interdisciplinary, collaborative research program focused on China’s atmospheric environment. It conducts interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed studies related to air pollution and greenhouse gases (GHG) in China, from root causes in the demand for and supply of energy to power its economy, to the chemistry and transport of pollutants in the atmosphere, to their impacts on human health and agriculture, to how measures to address these hazards might be integrated with equitable international strategies to limit GHG emissions.

The China Project was established initially by the Harvard University Center for the Environment to pursue cross-university collaboration, an interdisciplinary mandate that continues to shape it now under the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The Project follows an additional collaborative mandate, to conduct its research in full partnership with colleagues and partner institutions in China. Around 25 researchers from the two countries currently participate, in disciplines ranging across natural, applied, and health sciences, economics, law, public policy, and other fields.

The Project is chaired by atmospheric scientist Michael McElroy, Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies, and Chris Nielsen serves as its executive director. Faculty and researchers at four Harvard schools are currently active: the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (Economics, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Government), the School of Public Health, and the Law School. Participants are listed under "People" and in descriptions of research areas.

The China Project has long collaborated closely with Tsinghua University, particularly the School of Environment. Currently its most active collaborations at Tsinghua include:

The China Project presently also has key active collaborations with:

Other Chinese institutes that have collaborated on major completed studies include the Research Center for Contemporary China at Peking University, the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Beijing Medical University (now Peking University Health Science Center), and others.

The China Project has established ties to other institutions by hosting visiting scholars in diverse fields. These include a series of researchers in environmental law (jointly with the East Asian Legal Studies Program of Harvard Law School), 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. It has similarly hosted a series of scholars in environmental economics and/or energy economics from the School of Environment and Natural Resources of Renmin University, the Institute for Policy and Management of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Central University of Finance and Economics, the National Bureau of Statistics, and Keio University (Japan).

QU Geping, founding administrator of the National Environmental Protection Administration (later SEPA, now Ministry of Environment), has long served as Senior Advisor, and the Project has active ties to current minister-level officials with responsibilities on energy and environment.

Initiated with a preliminary, stage-setting review published in 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 externally-funded studies on the many disciplinary 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 two countries, and can include large data collection efforts in the field. Introduction to seven areas of current and recent research can be accessed here.

Results of research are chiefly reported in scholarly journals, books, and dissertations, listed in publications. They are also presented in seminars, research conferences and workshops, and policy briefings held at Harvard, in China, and elsewhere.

The Project hosts a long-running interdisciplinary seminar series, with talks by both external and internal researchers, usually held at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and open to the public.