Metcalf Interns visit Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province

For the summer of 2015, seven undergraduate students and one recent graduate started public policy research Metcalf Internships at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing. Focusing on issues of environmental governance, they work under the leadership of Professor Dali Yang (Department of Political Science), Faculty Director of the Center in Beijing.

On the weekend of July 25-26, the intern team visited Zhangjiakou, a prefecture-level city in Hebei province. The city is about 200km (123 miles) northwest of Beijing.

Zhangjiakou is home to several wind power farms, which take advantage of the strong winds on Bashang Plateau. The city has also taken efforts to protect its grasslands and lakes. For the interns, who study China’s environmental governance, this was an opportunity to get a broad sense of local environmental protection efforts.

The highlight of the visit was a tour of a 100.5 megawatt, 932 mln yuan wind power farm built, operated and majority-owned by the China Energy Conservation Investment Corporation (CECIC). The farm is located in Zhangbei County, which falls under the administration of the Zhangjiakou city government.

Power generated by the wind farm could replace 86,118 tons of coal per year by reducing dependency on coal-fired power plants, according to a report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

At the center of the farm, the interns had the opportunity to see the farm from the top of an observation tower.

"From there, wind turbines were visible in all directions for as far as the eye could see", said Dakota Bowman, a rising third-year double-majoring in International Studies and East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

Beyond wind-power developments, reforestation efforts were also widely visible. Newly planted trees could be seen alongside roads, on hills, and in fields.

To get a sense of the regulation of water resources, the intern team visited the Shandian River and Shandian Lake (lit. ‘Lightning’ River and Lake), part of the Luan River system.

In addition, the interns also took a tour of the Wuhua Meadow (lit. ‘Five-Flower’ Meadow) in Guyuan County, another county administered by Zhangjiakou. The meadow is home to 170 different plant species.

Both the lake and the meadow are being marketed as tourist attractions, something that goes hand-in-hand with stronger environmental protection. Indeed, Zhangjiakou hopes to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, and has taken steps to improve its environment toward that goal.

In addition to Zhangjiakou, the interns have conducted field visits to several Beijing-based NGOs, as well as Baiyangdian Lake. More opportunities for fieldwork are in the works, including a trip to Shandong province.