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China’s Soaring Economy, the Political Implications & Environmental Consequences are the subjects of Pomona College Conference

The extraordinary rise of China’s economy has eclipsed other Asian economic “miracles” in both its speed and extent. Its GNP approaches $1.3 trillion with a current average growth rate of 9.3 percent. But this unprecedented growth has also brought formidable environmental and political challenges.

On March 3-4, Chinese and American economists, environmentalists and business representatives will gather at Pomona College to discuss the meteoric rise of China’s economy, as well as its political implications and severe environmental consequences, in a two-day conference, “China 21: Productivity, Pollution and Politics,” hosted by the Pacific Basin Institute (PBI) at Pomona College.

According to Frank Gibney, president of PBI, “The unprecedented acceleration of China’s economy has made it the most astonishing of Asian economic miracles. Rapid environmental deterioration, however, continues to be a disconcerting side effect of its growth… China presents a large environmental problem not just for itself, but for the world. Already neighboring countries, like Japan and Korea, are increasingly affected by the waves of pollution pouring in from China’s overstressed factories working at breakneck speed.”

The China 21 conference will begin on Thursday, March 3, at 2 p.m. with opening remarks by David Oxtoby, president of Pomona College and professor of chemistry, followed by presentations on “Productivity – the New Economic Superpower.” Edward K.Y. Chen, president of Lingnan University, Hong Kong, will lead a discussion on the question “Twenty-five Years of Hyper-growth in China: Economics or Politics Taking Command?” Robert Kapp, president of Robert A. Kapp & Associates, and former president, U.S.-China Business Council, will lecture on “China’s Economic Growth: Implications for the United States.” This session will be held in the Pomona College Smith Campus Center, Rose Hills Theater, 170 E. 6th St., Claremont.

On Friday, March 4, the conference opens with an examination of “Pollution – Danger to the Environment,” at 9 a.m., in Pomona’s Hahn Building, Room 101, (420 N. Harvard Ave., Claremont). Elizabeth Economy, director of Asia Studies and Senior Fellow for China Council on Foreign Relations and author of The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future (2004), will give an overview of “China’s Pollution Perils.” Zhang Hongjun, senior counsel, Holland & Knights LLP, and former director of the Legislative Office of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Conservation Committee, National People’s Congress of China, will examine the question “Can Laws Save China’s Environment?”

During the 12:30 p.m. luncheon, Gibney, PBI’s president and a former journalist, will give an overview of “The Challenge of China,” based on his more than 50 years experience in Asia as someone who has spent most of his life attempting to bridge the gap between Americans and the countries and cultures of East Asia. A professor of politics at Pomona College, he is the author of several books, including Five Gentlemen of Japan (1953), Japan, the Fragile Superpower (1975), Korea’s Quiet Revolution (1992) and The Battle for Okinawa (1995). His major work, The Pacific Century (1992) was the capstone of the award-winning PBS television series of that name, where he served as chief editor.

In the afternoon session on “Politics – Projects, Problems & Planning,” which begins at 1:30 p.m., Dai Qing, independent investigative reporter and co-author of The River Dragon Has Come!: The Three Gorges Dam and the Fate of China’s Yangtze River and Its People (1997), will give a talk on the “Collision Between Science and Politics: The Tragic Case of Huang Wanli.” Russell Leiman, director, Asia Pacific Region, The Nature Conservancy, follows with a discussion on “China and the Environment: The Case for Optimism.”

Session chairs and commentators will include Pomona College professors Tahir Andrabi (economics), David Elliott (politics), Richard Hazlett (environmental analysis and geology); Laura Hoopes (biology), Stephen Marks (economics), and Richard Worthington (politics); John Jurewitz, director of environmental policy at Southern California Edison and a Pomona economics lecturer; and Arthur Rosenbaum, an associate professor of history at Claremont McKenna.

“The peculiar economic and political structure of China – not to mention its huge population – gives it very special status, notes Gibney. “The meteoric rise of Deng Xiaoping’s China has surpassed and confounded all of the experts and their predictions. But in dealing with the unique and serious environmental problems created by this growth, China’s leadership continues to be handicapped by massive corruption and an outmoded one-party government that is increasingly less able to control the growing affluence and independence of its citizens. All of this adds up to a fascinating picture of one of the world’s oldest nations now taking its rightful place as a world power.”

The conference is made possible with the support of a grant from David Horowitz ’73 and the Chan Asian Visiting Scholars Program. Organized by the Pacific Basin Institute; co-sponsored with Pomona’s Environmental Analysis Program and the Department of Economics. For a conference agenda, call: (909) 607-8065.

Pomona College, one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, offers a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Home to the oldest Asian Studies program among American liberal arts colleges, its hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.

Pacific Basin Institute at Pomona College
Phone: (909) 607-8065