Sustainability in China

All Grades, Environment/Nature, Economics, Government, Society, Resource Collection
  • Chart of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all.

Featured Resources Related to Study Tours Summer 2010, “History, Culture, and Sustainable Development” & Spring 2011, “Yunnan – Continuous Change, Enduring Traditions”

An inescapable remark in press coverage of China is that the country has undergone an unprecedented economic transformation into the 21st century that has effectively vaulted it into a world economic juggernaut and lifted millions of Chinese citizens out of poverty in the process. While this is a remarkable story that Chinese can rightly be proud of, the country is also grappling with balancing this considerable achievement (and continued need) for rapid economic growth while also preserving the natural and cultural resources that have sustained China for generations upon generations. Accordingly, the Teach China program has focused on issues of sustainable development in two recent K-12 educator study tours.

From July 19 – August 9, 2010, fifteen educators from New York, New Jersey, and Maryland joined China Institute’s professional development program for K-12 educators, Teach China, on a three-week study tour structured around exploring issues related to “history, culture, and sustainable development.” The tour began with the unique opportunity to attend the Shanghai 2010 World Expo, the largest World’s Fair ever held. The Expo (and Shanghai in general) served as a launching point to investigate how China is addressing the issue of sustainable development. The group used as a common reference point the definition of “sustainable development” from Our Common Future (also known as “the Brundtland Report”) which was released in 1987:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:

  • the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”

After exploring Shanghai, the group proceeded from the Yangzi River delta (aka Chang Jiang) to the middle region of the river and finally to the area of the river’s source, the Three Parallel Rivers region in northwest Yunnan province. The group made stops in Suzhou, Changsha, Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, and Shangrila, visiting important cultural and natural sites to gain a more complete picture of how issues of sustainable development are being played out in the areas the group traveled to. We visited temples associated with Confucian, Taoist, Buddhist, and indigenous religious belief systems, as well as visiting a high school, a university, and a community-based educational NGO to witness the various traditions that contribute to China’s own understanding of man’s interaction with the natural world.

In spring 2011, nine teachers from New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey joined the Teach China program to explore one of the most ethnically and geographically diverse provinces in China, Yunnan. Vital to the ancient tea and horse trade route, Yunnan has served as an important crossroads for trade and exchange of ideas and material goods between Tibet, Central and Southeast Asia, and China. The Spring Study Tour 2011 explored Yunnan’s rich cultural heritage and examined first-hand the changes taking place in light of China’s unprecedented development in places such as Kunming, Lijiang, and Shangri-la.

The resources you will find in this grouping of featured resource webpages were developed through the contributions of all the dedicated teachers who participated on these study tours. The resources are designed to help contextualize issues and approaches for teaching about sustainable development in China through five different perspectives: a geographical perspective, a historical perspective, a human cultural perspective, a material cultural perspective, and an appreciative perspective. We invite all viewers (teachers, students, and the general public) to leave comments and resources that will further the important discussion about how to promote a sustainable development for China, for the U.S., and for the world. It’s a big challenge that begins with small efforts every student, teacher, and school must contribute to – either in the U.S. or in China.

Resource Type: Resource Collections
Caterogy: All Grades, Environment/Nature, Economics, Government, Society, Resource Collection


Teach China Team

Teach China is a comprehensive professional development program offered by China Institute to provide a wealth of opportunities for K-12 educators to enhance their knowledge of China, past and present. We take an interdisciplinary approach consistent with national and state-mandated standards in order to help educators incorporate the teaching of China into all subjects and grade levels, including Mandarin language learning, the humanities, social studies, and the arts. Teach China promotes cross-cultural understanding through the use and creation of authentic materials, the presentation of balanced perspectives, and the fostering of enduring connections between educators around the world.