China and Inner Asia
The Summer Institute for Chinese Studies organized by the Asian Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh recently brought together fourteen scholars to extend research insights on environmental and ecological issues in China to the development of new ways of teaching in a broad range of disciplines. The work of these scholars highlighted the need for a critical understanding of the ideals and vested state interest in advocacy for “ecological civilization” in China, and deep questioning of this ideal in relation to China’s economic interests and geopolitical position in Asia. A key question in terms of the implementation of a civilizational project is how specific human interests are accommodated to a broad and expansive ecological agenda. Similarly, how does a project such as this shape our understanding of fundamental relationships of interdependence between human and non-human animals, and among animals and other forms of life in specific contexts? How can different disciplines assist in separating the political agenda of the Chinese state from the broader philosophical vitality of the concept of “ecological civilization”? As a visionary state policy linked to the growing importance of Asia in the world, the establishment of ecological civilization has significant ideological implications and reflects complicated political ambitions. As such -- and because, in some sense, “all environmentalism is local” -- this roundtable will bring together scholars whose research examines the intersection of China’s political, economic and cultural ambitions in Asia. Discussion will focus on issues and questions that highlight local forms of environmental activism, as these articulate interests, ideals, sensibilities and collectivities of shared value to provide a critical perspective on ecological civilization and its discontents in global Asia. The roundtable will focus on key questions articulated by a panel of interdisciplinary scholars. Duara will provide a perspective on nationalism, globalization and ecology, with specific focus on leadership and decarbonization by Gong, ecological civilization and the state by Hansen, ethnicity and environmentalism by Luo, religion and ecology by Nicolaisen, and forestry and political ecology by Zhang.