Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Event Date



Sino-American Conference on Environmental Law (1st: 1987: Beijing, People's Republic of China)


On August 16 through 18, 1987 a delegation of 10 Americans met with a 14-member Chinese delegation to compare the systems of environmental law in the two countries. The meetings were held on and near the campus of the University of Peking in Beijing, People's Republic of China. This program was the fruition of nearly three years of discussion, planning, and organization involving Dean Betsy Levin and the Natural Resources Law Center.

The keynote speaker was Qu Geping, Director of the Chinese National Environmental Protection Bureau (comparable to the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). He spoke of the very high priority which has been given to environmental protection by the Chinese government. The Chinese delegation was headed by Zhu Zhong-Jai, Deputy Secretary General of the Chinese Society of Environmental Sciences, and included representatives from the Chinese Society of Environmental Management, Economics and Law, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China University of Political Science and Law, the Department of Urban and County Construction and Environmental Protection, the Academy of Chinese Sciences, the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, the University of Peking Department of Law, and the National Environmental Protection Bureau.

The American Delegation was headed by Professor David H. Getches of the University of Colorado School of Law and included David R. Andrews, McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen in San Francisco, Devra Lee Davis, National Academy of Sciences, Professor Stuart L. Deutsch, Chicago Kent College of Law, Lawrence J. MacDonnell, Natural Resources Law Center, Professor Daniel B. Mag raw, University of Colorado School of Law, Richard D. Morgenstern, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Professor George W. Pring, University of Denver College of Law, Thomas Speicher, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Professor A. Dan Tarlock, Chicago Kent College of Law.

Papers were prepared by members of both delegations. Written translations of the American and most of the Chinese papers were available in Chinese and English at the meeting. There was also simultaneous translation of the oral summaries of the papers made by delegation members and of the subsequent questions and discussion periods. In line with the comparative orientation of the program the presentations were organized around several general topics: the general legal structure and regulatory approach; pollution control; wildlife and natural area protection; and enforcement. The development of environmental law in China did not begin in an organized way until 1979. Since then, rapid progress has been made. Environmental protection law in China parallels American law in a number of important respects, including the general regulatory approach and the requirement for environmental impact assessments. One interesting difference is the use of pollution fees by the Chinese. Another important difference is the paramount role of central planning in China and the manner in which matters like pollution control are directly incorporated into programs for economic development. Still another striking difference is the relative infancy of the Chinese legal system itself and the general lack of experience in using legal processes to implement and enforce environmental requirements.

Support for this program was received from McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Chicago Kent College of Law, and the University of Denver College of Law (through contributions from the Colorado Bar Foundation, J. Brian Stockmar, Parcel, Mauro, Hultin & Spaanstra, and the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation). The Natural Resources Law Center will publish the papers prepared by the delegation members as a conference proceedings. Discussions are underway regarding a second conference, this one to be held in the United States, probably in 1989.


Lawrence J. MacDonnell