Skip to content ↓

China, MIT Sponsor Academic/Industrial Initiative

Conference opens July 12 in the Great Hall of the People

Beijing, China--The Chinese government, a leading Chinese university, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) are sponsoring an unprecedented international initiative to involve universities and industrial companies in fostering economic growth while preserving the environment for the 21st century.

As the first step of this initiative, the government program China's Agenda 21, Tsinghua University in Beijing and M.I.T. are sponsoring an International Conference on Sustainable Development and Environment, July 12-14 in Beijing. Also participating in the conference are seven major international industrial firms from the United States, Switzerland and Norway.

Speaking at the opening ceremony in the Great Hall of the People will be Deng Nan, vice-chair of the State Science and Technology Commission, and daughter of Deng Xiao Ping, China's paramount leader. The opening ceremony will also feature presentations by Gan Shijun, director general of the State Science and Technology Commission's Department of Science & Technology for Social Development; Wang Dazhong, Tsinghua University president; Joel Moses, M.I.T. provost (the chief academic officer); and Braden Allenby, AT&T research vice president for technology and environment.

After the opening session, the conference sessions will be held at Tsinghua University. The conference will provide an opportunity for scientists and industrial partners from the United States, China and other nations to share technological, economic and developmental knowledge and to open future bridges to promote sustainable development in the world's rapidly developing and developed countries. (Sustainable development is the management of development so that human activities do not significantly alter the quality of life, the availability of natural resources or the environment.)

Dr. Gan Shijun of the State Science and Technology Commission said in a statement, "China's Agenda 21 is the national strategy for sustainable development in China. The implementation of China's Agenda 21 not only has a large and long-lasting effect on the coordinated development of the Chinese economy, society, resources and environment, it is also a kind of vibrant promotion of global sustainable development.... Under this framework, we would like to seek wide-ranging cooperation with international organizations, foreign governments and various prominent institutes and universities. The conference is only the beginning of our cooperation with M.I.T."

M.I.T. President Charles M. Vest stated, "No global challenge is more daunting than the one of discovering paths to economic growth and development that allow us to preserve the global environment." Vest discussed the conference with Gan Shijun and Wang Dazhong during his June visit to China.

M.I.T. Provost Joel Moses said, "The point is to reconcile economic justice -- raising the welfare of the poorer nations on earth -- and global, environmental preservation. These two objectives are difficult to maximize at the same time. This is a unique challenge for scientists and engineers, as well as a moral and political challenge. We are excited to take on this challenge."

Tsinghua University President Wang Dazhong commented, "Sustainable development and environment are among the most important issues which we will confront in the next century, not only for China but other countries in the world as well. Tsinghua University will actively promote collaborations with M.I.T. and sectors of industry in this respect. It is my hope that our collaborations will lead to a new level of cooperation through this international conference."

The conference is co-chaired by Gan Shijun; Professor Hao Jiming, the chairman of the department of environmental engineering at Tsinghua University; Suzanne Berger, M.I.T. professor of political science and director of the M.I.T. International Science and Technology Initiative.; and M.I.T. Professor David H. Marks, director of the M.I.T. Program for Environmental Engineering Education and Research (PEEER).

M.I.T. professors and their Chinese colleagues will lead a series of discussions and lectures. Their areas of academic interest span the university: chemistry, chemical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences, mechanical engineering, political science, and urban studies and planning.

The seven international firms playing a major role in the meeting, include Asea Brown Boveri (ABB), AT&T, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, IBM, Norsk Hydro, and Raytheon. ABB has its headquarters in Switzerland and Norsk Hydro is based in Norway; the other firms are based in the U.S.

M.I.T. Professor Berger said, "This is a major effort to build international education and research at M.I.T. with multiple benefits: to strengthen our research base by working with the best research abroad, to develop the skills in our students that will allow them access to foreign labs and business opportunities, and to address the challenges of environment and development in ways valuable for China, the U.S. and the world. We see China as an emerging power in the world economy and a force in science and technology. In the United States, the 'not-invented-here' attitude has been a big drag on US competitiveness, and we believe programs like this will benefit American society."

"This project is the first of a series of programs to give students and faculty broader opportunities to gain a deep understanding of how knowledge is created and used in other countries," said Berger. The conference will involve joint presentations by outstanding Chinese scientists and engineers and by twelve M.I.T. faculty, together with several of their University of Tokyo and Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology collaborators, and with the industrial representatives. Through the conference and lab visits during a week in China, the faculty and the graduate students accompanying them will be evaluating the possibilities for future collaborative research.

M.I.T.'s President Vest was in China last month meeting with political, academic and research leaders to build mutual understanding between M.I.T. and China, and to lead the way for programs to prepare M.I.T. graduates to live and work in today's global economic community. Vest intends M.I.T. to become a world-class center of learning about China--providing an important information source for U.S. industry and government.

The sustainable development and environment conference will focus on three areas: environmental science and health; environmental technologies and cleaner manufacturing and production processes; and economic development and environment.

M.I.T. Professor Marks commented, "These areas are also key aspects of M.I.T.'s overall efforts in sustainability and the environment. Sustainability cuts across global, regional and local boundaries which is why this project in China, with 20% of the world's population, is so important to us. M.I.T. wants to work with colleagues across the world to find solutions and educate the decision process."

Hao Jiming of Tsinghua University commented, "A good beginning is one half of success, and we expect that this international conference will be the best beginning for our future cooperation program."

Topics and speakers include: "Global Atmospheric Pollution," by M.I.T. Professor Mario Molina; "Land Subsi-dence (sinking) due to Excessive Pumping of Ground Water," by M.I.T. Professor Chiang Mei; "Lessons from Waste Disposal in the Aberjona Watershed," by Dr. John Durant of M.I.T.; "Climate Change, Water and Agricul-ture," by M.I.T. Professor Rafael Bras; "Engineering and Agriculture Approaches to Acid Rain and Deserti-fication Problems in China," by University of Tokyo Professor Masayoshi Sadakata; "Monitoring the Well-Being of the Environment," by M.I.T. Professor Jeffrey Steinfeld; "Chemical Process and Product Design for Sustainable Futures--Meeting Commercial and Environmental Objectives," by M.I.T. Professor Gregory McRae; "The Prospects for Energy Conservation and CO2 Reduction in the Aluminum Industry," by University of Tokyo Professor Koichi Yamada; "An Integrated Assessment of Airborne Toxicants," by M.I.T. Professor Adel Sarofim.

Also, "Optimal Design and Operation of Energy Conversion, Processes and Networks" by Michael von Spakovsky, senior researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology; "How to Minimize Environmental Impact with Advanced Energy Technologies," by Maurice Campagna, director of corporate research at ABB Management Ltd.; "Tools for Environmentally-Conscious Product Design," by M.I.T. Professor David Wallace; "Industrial Ecology," by M.I.T. Professor David Marks; "An Intellectual Framework to Integrate Environmental and Economic Activities," by Braden Allenby of AT&T; "Life Cycle Assessment and Automobiles" by Weijian Han, China Automotive Technology Workshop, Ford Motor Co.; "Environmental Aid Programs: Compensation and Joint Implementation" by M.I.T. Professor Kenneth Oye; and "Will GNP Growth Slow if More Resources are Devoted to Environmental Clean-up," by M.I.T. Professor Alice Amsden.

Related Topics

More MIT News