About the Harvard-China Project

Founded in 1993, the interdisciplinary Harvard-China Project, based in the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 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; 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 and valuation of health risk; analyses of urban transport, land use, and environment; and integrated assessments of the economic and environmental costs and benefits of national policies to control emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases. 

The Project currently involves eight active faculty members from four Harvard schools and around fifteen 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, is 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.


The Harvard-China Project is the proud and appreciative recipient of the first anchor grant from the Harvard Global Institute under the Office of President Drew Faust, providing major funding for pursuit of the Project's "China 2030/2050" research theme (see video below). The HGI award supports new and expanded studies, scholarly exchanges, educational activities, and public events across the Project's fields of scholarship, emphasizing collaborative work with partners on the ground in China. 

The Harvard-China Project also appreciates the core support of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which provides it with a physical home, related services, and an innovation-driven community that embraces bridging from sciences and engineering to all other fields of scholarly inquiry, across Harvard and around the world. 

Other major funders of the Harvard-China Project have included the Energy Foundation China, the National Science Foundation (grants ATM-1019134 and ATM-0635548), the Henry Luce Foundation, the Volvo Research Foundations, the Ford Motor Company Foundation, the Bedminster Foundation, the Dunwalke Trust, and the Kernan Brothers Fellowship, as well as the two major funders that supported the launch of the China Project: the V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy (grant DE-FG02-95ER62133). 

Additional funders have included the Harvard Climate Change Solutions Fund, Ash Center Hui Fund for Generating Powerful Ideas, Ingrid Kuok, the China Three Gorges Power Company, the Harvard Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Cheung Yan Fund of the Harvard Department of Economics, the Harvard China Fund, the Smeltzer Fund, the Harvard Asia Center, the Harvard University Center for the Environment, the Thornton Foundation, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute for Global Environmental Change, the Pacific Basin Research Center, the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, and several anonymous foundations.

Harvard Climate Change Experts Focus on China

The China Project received the first $3.75 million grant from the new Harvard Global Institute.
See also: Multimedia


Collaborations across Harvard University and with Chinese Institutions


  • 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;
  • Harvard Graduate School of Design.


  • 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. Seminars are usually held at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and are open to the public. We also organize public lectures and research conferences every year.

See our recent publications.

Take a look at our seminars and events calendar.