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Environmental Law Program Travels to China

On March 13, students, faculty and alumni from UM Carey Law's Environmental Law Program departed for its biennial trip to China. Students will be blogging about their experiences until they return on March 23.

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HEADLINES:

March 22

Today we were hosted at the 19th Annual PhD Student Forum of Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The Chinese students seemed elated to have us and we were equally excited to be there. The general topic for the day was "Deepening reformation of rule of law and social governance." Upon arrival we were greeted with gift bags and a barrage of photographs. The students really did roll out the red carpet for us.

For the main forum, Dean Ji Weidong gave a presentation on "Judicial Reform in China: The Status Quo and Future Directions." Professor Percival gave a captivating presentation on climate change issues, focusing on the US and China's need to reduce emissions and the importance of working together to achieve this important goal. Everyone present was extremely engaged, and  posed extremely thoughtful questions. 

For lunch we were given so much wonderful, beautiful food! I ate about three plates. After lunch Maryland Clinic Fellow Andrew Keir and several U.S. and Chinese professors and students made presentations, including four students from Maryland: Renee Connor, Ilana Kerner, Haley Peterson and Allie Santacreu. They all did an amazing job. I only had the chance to see Andrew and Ilana, but I heard everyone made UM Carey Law very proud.

Professor Percival informed us beforehand that the Chinese students wanted to "play with us" after the forum. I think it's safe to say all of us thought that this meant that we would hangout with them and talk and drink.. But instead, they threw a pizza party for us and we played some party games! It was surprising at first, but quickly turned into an unforgettable experience. We played musical chairs (which they call, most endearingly I must add, "reduction of chairs") and human knot. Everyone mingled and talked, made friends, and exchanged email addresses. There was definitely some heavy competition during the musical chairs game! It was incredible to experience the generosity and excitement of the students at the school.

Finally, we all spent the remainder of the evening at a Chinese acrobatic show. It was breathtaking. Think ala Cirque Du Sole. Though it was a long day, it was absolutely a perfect way to end this amazing time in this amazing country.

--Taylor Kasky 2L

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March 21

Today was our second day in Shanghai. Our first stop was a Buddhist temple in the city. Not only is it a tourist attraction but also an active temple so it was really interesting to see local Chinese coming to pray and the monks leading prayers. The temple was beautiful and we were able to see a Buddha made entirely of jade. The craftsmanship was absolutely stunning.

Our next stop was a silk factory. A guide showed us the process of making silk. We learned about the silk worms' 45 day life and how the thread they produce is compressed into the silk fabric we know and love. After, we had the opportunity to buy silk items straight from the factory. The silk was beautiful and it was nice to know we were buying real silk, especially because many of the markets sell fake items.

Next we went to a  shopping market where we had the opportunity to try out our bargaining skills. Shanghai is somewhat known for its knock off designer products and the group was quite amazed to discover the variety of faux Ray Bands, Tory Burch products, Rolex watches and various designer handbags. After successful shopping and time for lunch, we set off for the Yu Yuan gardens.

The gardens were beautiful - pagodas, koi ponds, bridges, and stone formations. They are a popular destination and we weaved in and out of many other tourists to enjoy the architecture, landscaping and the atmosphere. Unlike the Summer Palace where we visited earlier in the week, the Yu Yuan gardens were originally private gardens (as opposed to gardens/summer homes owned by royalty) though now they are open to the public. We had the opportunity to eat food and shop around the garden. Many of the stores sold beautiful jade jewelry and we had a chance to use our bargaining skills once more!

Next, we went to a reception at the Maryland China Center in the JW Marriott Tomorrow Square complex. We mingled over hors d'oeuvres and coffee while listening to presentations by the director of the Maryland-China Center and Zhenxi Zhong (a representative from the international environmental organization Roots and Shoots). This reception was a great chance for us to learn about ways that Maryland/USA and China are working together economically and within the environmental education field.

Finally, we had a nice dinner by the Bund and had a chance to drive by some of the beautiful and bright lights along this part of the city!

-- Haley Peterson 1L & Hilary Tebeleff 1L

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March 20

Today, we rose early in the morning to travel from Qingdao to Shanghai. Shanghai is China's financial district, making it one of the more attractive locations for global companies. After our hour flight, the group was ready for lunch, so we ate at the airport terminal. Surprisingly, the area offered traditional Chinese cuisine from noodle to rice dishes with superior quality. Upon arriving, we were very excited to immerse ourselves in the food and culture of a new city. We were told that every visitor must experience three things while in this international city: the height, night, and speed. Fortunately, we were given the opportunity to experience the height and night of Shanghai in one day. First, we went to the second tallest skyscraper in mainland China, the World Financial Center in the city's center. The building is a mixed-use skyscraper that houses hotels, offices, and shopping malls, among other things. During our visit, we ventured 100 stories up to the building's Observation Deck, the tallest observation deck in the world, to get a breath-taking view of the entire city. At 1,555 feet above the ground, we were able to see the surroundings below through the glass floors.

After touring the top floor of the World Financial Center, we worked up an appetite. Shanghai offers various local cuisines found in other areas of China. Their local cuisine is known for tasting sweeter than the Northern Chinese cities. After learning this about their cuisine, we were excited for dinner. We went to the Jian Gong Jin Jiang Hotel to check-in and to have dinner. Dinner at the hotel was interesting, for the first time our meal did not include a pork or chicken dish. We were served delicious fried shrimp cakes, tofu with sauce, steamed vegetables, white rice, eggs and tomatoes, eggplant, and banana and tomatoes for dessert.

After dinner, we took a boat ride on the Night of Shanghai along the Huangpu River. We were able to see a spectacular view of the city from the water. The bright lights and scenic atmosphere was alluring and intriguing. During the boat ride, we saw the Shanghai Bund where many of the city's banks are centrally located along with other trading houses and consulates. The area is similar to New York's Wall Street. Also, we saw the city's largest LED-lit screen display on one of the buildings. The boat ride was a great introduction to the city, and tomorrow we look forward to seeing more of the city with the local tour of the city.

--Rhonda Dinkins 2L and Nia Duggins 2L

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March 19

Today we began our day by visiting the Quindao Olympic Sailing Center. The boardwalk offered a great view of many of Quindao's tallest buildings and  it had a great view of the 2008 Beijing Olympic rings and torch. There were also many shops along the boardwalk. Next, we went to Little Fish Hill. We hiked to the top of the hill where there were gazebos and artwork The view from the top of the gazebo was breathtaking! We could see everything that the City of Quindao had to offer. The view included the skyscrapers, many houses, the beach, and even the mountains.

In the afternoon we toured the Tsingtao Brewery, one of the top green companies in China. The Tsingtao Brewery and brand have existed since 1903 and it is the most popular beer in China. Currently, over 240,000 tons of the beer are produced at the brewery every year and the beer is exported to 30 different countries. At the brewery we learned about the history of the Tsingtao brand. We also learned about the process of brewing the beer and we got to observe the machines processing and packaging the beer into boxes. The tour was very interesting and very informative!

--Emmanuel Fishelman 3L

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March 18

The best way for one to experience a country is through the taste, feel and culture of its people. That is exactly what we did on the next leg of our trip. Today we arrived by plane to Qingdao (pronounced ching-dow). Qingdao is a major tourist location for the Chinese and is known for its beautiful beach. We had the opportunity to visit the beach as the weather held up quite nicely.

During our time in Qingdao, we visited the Ocean University of China, which has one of the top environmental law programs in China. There we had the opportunity to meet faculty, staff, and students of the School of Law and Political Science. We learned about the many programs in Environmental Law and even met some international students studying in Qingdao from Africa, Canada, and the U.S. The Chinese government offers a unique incentive to international students studying in the Environmental Law program in Qingdao (full tuition and a monthly stipend).

While in Qingdao, we did what the locals do and received traditional Chinese reflexology massage (commonly known as foot massage). The Chinese believe that the feet when placed together create a second heart. Reflexology is said to promote health (mind and body). For those receiving the massage for the first time, this was a real treat, as for the equivalent of $20 one received a 60-minute reflexology massage.

We are looking forward to tasting the city, as Qingdao is known for its beer. We plan to visit the world-famous Tsingtao Brewery tomorrow. Stay tuned for our next adventure.

--Nikita Floore 2L

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March 17

Today was our first environmental law focused day in China. During breakfast, a few students met with three prospective Maryland law students who live in Beijing to answer their questions about the school, the environmental law program, and the city of Baltimore.

After a delicious breakfast, we were off to the Environmental Defense Fund. The project managers and director presented an overview of their initiatives, including mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, green commuting programs, carbon trading between farmers and industrial companies, and improving the compliance and enforcement of Chinese environmental laws.

Lunchtime! We were fortunate to have lunch with environmental law students and professors from the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL). This was one of our favorite experiences thus far!  Not only was the food delicious, but it was our first opportunity to learn about Chinese daily life. We learned about student life in China, from the students' love for "House of Cards" to their career aspirations in the environmental law field.

Professor Percival then gave a presentation to the CUPL students about the importance of China and the United States working together to protect the environment. The Chinese students asked many interesting and insightful questions.

Finally, we visited China's top public interest environmental law firm, the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV), led by Professor Wang Canfa. Professor Wang and his students described the incredible work the clinic is doing to solve pollution issues in China. We were all in awe of the amount of work the clinic has taken on and how dedicated the lawyers and students are to helping those affected by pollution. We also visited the law firm Professor Wang has established to represent plaintiffs in environmental cases.

We had an wonderful last day in Beijing; it was a great experience to learn firsthand about the environmental law programs developing in China and to meet the dedicated and inspiring students and professors behind them. Onto Qingdao!

--Ilana Kerner 3L and Sherri Weinstein 2L

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March 16

March 16th was an incredible and humbling day of firsts; whether it be the first time climbing the Great Wall, participating in a traditional tea ceremony, riding in a rickshaw, having a family dinner in a local hutong or even turning 26 in one circumstance! While today was a big day of firsts it was also a really interesting comparison between traditional Chinese traditions and our American ones. After an early breakfast, we made our way to the Great Wall of China. As we wound our way up through the mountains, our guide Arnie told us about the storied and oftentimes bloody history of this massive world wonder. History and time in general is something that requires adjusting, unlike America that hasn't even celebrated her 400th birthday, China measures milestones in dynasties and hundreds and thousands of years. Hearing the evolution of the Wall and how it came to be makes you even more acutely aware of how awe inspiring the monument truly is; there’s just no way to describe standing on top of one of the towers and watching the wall wind its way through the Chinese countryside beneath you, knowing how far its reach extends.

After leaving the wall, we made our way back into the heart of Beijing in order to visit a local tea house. Tea in China is a gourmet affair, with over 3,000 varieties available to sample and each one reputed to have different medicinal properties. We were lucky enough to try five distinctly different and flavorful teas. Unlike in America, sugar is not taken with tea in China. However, the natural flavors were so delicious and fragrant that sugar was not even necessary. One tea we tried, monkey tea, is grown on an incline that is so high that humans cannot pick the leaves themselves. Instead of forsaking a variety of tea, the Chinese taught monkeys to climb up into the canopy and pick the leaves instead, hence monkey tea!

After leaving the tea house, we made our way to the hutong area of Beijing, where we would be having dinner with a local family. Hutongs are a communal affair already, with between 6-10 families sharing living spaces like kitchens and bathrooms. In order to get to our family’s home, we took a rickshaw ride through the narrow streets of the neighborhood, which was more of an adventure than you would think. After eating a delicious dinner, our host family was gracious enough to help us celebrate Allie Santacreu's 26th birthday. In China, birthdays are celebrated with a bowl of noodles for good luck, whereas in America we celebrate with cake and candles. Luckily Allie was able to get a double dose of luck with a bowl of shrimp and noodles followed by a traditional Chinese angel food and fruit cake and a happy birthday song in two languages, birthday crown included! Finally, we capped off our day with a kung fu show right across the street from our hotel. It was a busy day, but it was also a joyful and lovely day of celebrating firsts!

--Allie Stulpin 2L, Allie Santacreau 2L, and Renee Connor 2L

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March 15

Our first day in Beijing was a success! We went to Tiananmen Square, which was huge, then went to the even bigger Forbidden City. The City was beautiful, with very intricate buildings. It was also very big. Behind every gate was a courtyard, which led to another gate and another courtyard or garden. It was also pretty busy, and we were quite popular with many Chinese people--we had our pictures taken a lot. The Chinese characters at the entrance to the Forbidden City look like a person walking. The characters at the exit from the City look like a person crawling. It's pretty appropriate for the size of the place.

After lunch we stopped to shop for freshwater pearls and learned that 97% of the worlds' freshwater pearls come from China. We then went to the Summer Palace, which was really peaceful. We walked along the boat-filled lake in a long corridor featuring thousands of hand-painted scenes on the ceiling. We practiced tai chi with a master--some of us with more success than others.  We ended with dinner featuring Beijing's most famous dish, roasted duck. Chopsticks and eating family style are still new, but we are improving. We are also now quite proficient at saying "thank you" and "no, thank you" (mostly to street vendors) in Chinese. After the second day, our cameras are already filled with pictures, and we know a lot more about the history of Beijing thanks to our guides.

--Lisa Piccinini 3L

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Photos provided by Professor Robert Percival and Environmental Law Program Students.


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500 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1786 PHONE: (410) 706-7214 FAX: (410) 706-4045 / TDD: (410) 706-7714

Copyright © 2014, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. All Rights Reserved