Research Team and Projects

Yumin Wang

Candidate of International Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP) 2020, Duke Kunshan University

Project 1: Comparative Study of Chinese environmental NGOs

In this project, I collaborate with Professor Fürst to understand how Chinese environmental NGOs work in the authoritarian regime. This research was designed as a comparative study. Specifically, we want to answer this question by comparing two distinct environmental NGOs in China: Guardian of Huai River and Guiyang Public Environmental Education Center. With the network of Professor Fürst, I worked as an intern in both NGOs in the 2019 summer, each for about 45 days. As an intern, I observed and interviewed the employers and the partners of the two NGOs for deeper understanding of the two NGOs. Currently, I am organizing these data I collected in the summer and use them as the input of the comparative study.

Project 2: History of Guardian of Huai River

In this project, I collaborate with Professor Fürst on writing the history of the Guardian of Huai River (GHR). GHR is a Chinese environmental NGO established in 2001, locating in the Shenqiu County in Henan Province. Since its establishment, the founder and the members in GHR has been fighting against local industrial pollution for 18 years. By documenting the history of GHR, we want to reflect the change of the relationship among government, industrial companies, and environmental NGO in a less developed county in the middle of China.

Project 3: Student Consultant in Chinese Environmental Regulation

In this project, I and three other classmates work with LG consulting for the client in the field of Chinese environmental regulation. Our work mainly involves: 1). Collecting and analyzing Chinese environmental regulations on national, provincial, and municipal level. 2). For industrial companies, identifying key risks generated from the increasingly strict environmental regulation in China. 3). Helping our client making production strategies based on the analysis of Chinese environmental regulation.


Roger Guzman

Candidate of International Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP) 2021, Duke Kunshan University

Project 1: China Plastics Pollution

The project seeks to undertake a thorough analysis of the public policy response of China to the marine plastics pollution problem. The analysis will organize the body of public policy in China to better understand the instruments being used by the government to reduce leakage of plastic into the waterways and the ocean. It aims to expand the Global Plastics Policy Inventory to include all relevant policy documents in China; with corresponding analyses of the contents. Once done, the project hopes to contribute to a broader global policy analysis of plastics pollution, to synthesize the landscape of policy instruments introduced at the international, national and sub-national levels to reduce ocean plastic pollution across different geographic contexts, as well as to provide insights into the effectiveness of such instruments.

Project 2: Civil Non-state Regulation in China

This research project consists of literature review on updates in civil non-state regulation in China, focusing on developments in law and policy since 2011.



Mengqi Li

Research Assistant for Environmental Research Center

Project 1: China Plastics Policy Analysis

The objective of this research project is to answer the question: how has the Government of China responded to the plastics pollution problem? This question would be answered by organizing a body of public policy in such a way that leads to analysis and contributes to a better understanding of instruments being used by the Government of China to try to reduce leakage of plastic into the waterways and ocean.

This project would help address these constraints, by ensuring a thorough analysis of the public policy response of one of the largest sources of potential leakage of plastics into the global ocean: China.

Project 2: China Sub Ocean Energy Legal Analysis

China, which is home to some of the most exotic islands in the world, is making significant progress in electrifying its nature-rich islands. Submarine power cables can carry electric power below the surface of the water. This project would analysis: what measures does the Government of China take to prevent damage from submarine power cables.

Project 3: Blue Pioneer Program

This program will focus on the planning of marine protected areas, and analyze the win-win relationship between the plan, construction and management strategies of marine protected areas and coastal areas. At the same time, the topic of sustainable fisheries and supply chain management will be discussed in depth, from the theoretical basis of resource and environment economics to the policies and practices of countries all over the world in this respect.


Yizi Zhang

Research Assistant for Environmental Research Center

Project: The Environment Governance Kunshan Model

In this project, what I am doing is to manage the conference time and research the related legislations, cases and data, which would help the team work goes well and find the direction to promote the study and master the key of the issue.

Since the implementation of the newly revised Environmental Protection Law on January 1, 2015, China's environmental governance has undergone great changes, and it has also opened possibilities for multi-stakeholder participation in the environmental regulatory process.

That is why we focus on the multi-cohabitation in this project. Basing on it, the Kunshan Model” is called to the Kunshan government governance experience in environment protection.


Dongyu Sun

Research Assistant for Environmental Research Center

Project 1: Environmental Rights in China

More than 100 States have enacted legislation that specifically identifies and articulates the right to a healthy environment and multiple international and regional agreements have recognized the link between the environment and human rights. In China, scholars have advocated for an explicit constitutional recognition of environmental rights for many years, cumulating in numerous versions of proposed constitutional environmental rights provisions ahead of China amending its Constitution in 2018. But this much-expected change still did not take place, although China has put huge efforts into environmental protection and declared its solid commitment to the whole world.  So why China declines to constitutionalize environmental rights? Even if we cannot find a constitutional environmental rights provision, are there de facto environmental rights? A more fundamental question might be: if environmental rights are not recognized in China, is the government still obliged to protect the environment? If so, where does that obligation come from?

Project 2: Tackle Grazing in Nature Reserves in Sichuan—A Legal Perspective

Despite the explicit prohibition on livestock grazing provided by the Regulation of the PRC on Nature Reserve (“Regulation”), grazing is still prevalent across the nature reserves established to protect pandas in Sichuan. Drawing knowledge from a multi-disciplinary research team, this project studies the cause and effective solutions of addressing this issue from environmental science, environmental economics, and environmental law perspectives. The legal perspective focuses on the enforcement of the Regulation in nature reserves, the knowledge and understanding of the staff with nature reserve bureaus, the views of inhabitants in the nature reserves, the supervision on nature reserves from superior organs, and the loopholes and possible improvement of the Regulation and enforcement.

Project 3: Central and Local Relations and Environmental Protection under President Xi

The National Ecological and Environmental Protection Meeting was held from May 18-19th, 2019. The keynote speech President Xi gave described the reforms on China’s ecological and environmental protection after 2012 as “historic, transformative, and overall.” Among these reforms, two glaring ones are the establishment of central ecological and environmental protection supervision system, and the system whereby environmental protection agencies below the provincial level come directly under the supervision of their respective provincial-level agencies (previously they were supervised by the corresponding municipal government). While enhancing environmental protection, these reforms also have greatly changed the central and local relation on environmental governance. This project study how these two systems of reforms are implemented and work, what the legal and political implications, effects, and legal consequences are, what are the changes of central and local relations, and finally, whether these changes guarantee an effective, enduring, legitimate change on environmental protection.


Rachel Rong

Candidate of International Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP) 2020, Duke Kunshan University

Project 1: Chinese Environmental NGOs Role on Reducing Air Pollution and Their Perceptions about Social Economic Cost

Summary: This study tries to answer which roles eNGOs have played in addressing air pollution issues in China, how eNGOs re-positioned themselves after the government step in, and how eNGOs perceive the socioeconomic costs pertaining to air pollution reduction policy. There are 15 eNGOs from international, national and local level have been selected as cases, and then two round interviews in 2017 and 2019 were conducted to collect the data. Based on the interview information from the sample, it finds that eNGOs have played different kinds of roles (educator, informer, advisor, monitor, litigator, supervisor) in different phases of policy process, the educator and monitor are more likely to have less work to do after the government step in, and advisor and litigator are more likely to care about socioeconomic costs.

Project 2Summary of environmental justice project:

This project examines the opinions and discussions on environmental justice in Chinese circumstance. It uses mate-analysis to collect all the information about environmental justice or relevant Chinese words from Chinese government official documents, social media and academic publications. It is still in progressing now. 


Huijing Huang

Candidate of International Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP) 2020, Duke Kunshan University

Project: A Comparative Analysis of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Assessment Tools

Private sectors and corporates are often criticized as being exploiters of natural resources and human labor, creating social issues and environmental degradations. However, they can also be potential solutions to improve sustainability as evidenced by the shifted notion of corporate social responsibility (CSR) from corporate philanthropy to the insurance of a companys long-term success. A key to hold corporates accountable on their social, environmental and governance performances is measuring. A great number of ESG assessment tools are available in the market including Global Reporting Initiatives, B Impact Assessment, Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes and MSCI ESG Ratings. China has been slow to join this global movement while due to the increasing pressure from international investors and domestic regulations on environmental information disclosure, China will soon be having a booming market for such tools. Requested and supported by B Corps China and under the guidance of Professor Kathinka Fürst, I took on this journey on comparatively analyzing several ESG assessment tools. This project aims to answer the following questions: what are the differences between ESG tools? What are their relative positionings to one another? How holistic and effective these tools are? A systematic review of these tools will be conducted. Currently, Im in the process of developing and refining an assessment framework that can be used to gather qualitative information and evaluate the qualitative information through a quantitative lens. This research project is expected to analyze 10~15 ESG tools and the final deliverables will be a research paper in publishable format and a research report in PPT format to tailor different audience.


Yiren Wang

Candidate of International Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP) 2020, Duke Kunshan University

ProjectNew alternative: social impact investment to address environmental problems in China 

Social impact investment is supposed to generate social and environmental impact alongside financial returns. Nowadays, growing numbers of people in China want to unleash the power of capital for good, then the idea of social impact investment is gradually coming into the public sights. Therefore, in this research, we plan to answer the question: can social impact investment become an alternative to solve the environmental problems in China? In one word, a deep interpretation of the following perspectives will be provided: the public cognition of social impact investment, stakeholders maps involved, evaluation of the actual implementation the social impact investment projects, successful or failure cases, and future trends in China. 


Kameron Schroeder

ProjectWild Salmon in China: Using Radio Tagging and Environmental Policy to Protect Chum Salmon Populations in the Amur River

Partnering with the Forever Nature Capital Foundation in China, the Wild Salmon in China project involves a two-part report intended to facilitate protection of Chum Salmon in China. Three fish hatcheries supported by the Forever Nature Capital Foundation are located along the border of China, Russia, and North Korea. Due to Russia being where Salmon head inland from the Sea of Cortez, the presence of spawning sites within China is currently disputed by the Russian Government. Therefore, all Salmon are assumed to be the property of Russia and cannot be protected by an international treaty. The NGO is seeking our support as members of the iMEP program to locate and prove the existence of spawning sites in the many estuaries on the Chinese side of the river that provide suitable habitat for spawning Chum Salmon. The first part of the project involves careful crafting of a technical plan on how to tag and track Salmon in the area when they cross over into China. Relying on past case studies and technical guidance from biotracking manufacturers, a detailed technical plan that is easily implemented by Forever Nature Capital Foundation is being created. The second part of the project involves a comprehensive strategy weighing different alternatives for policy action once the salmon spawning evidence is obtained. Use of theoretical policy knowledge and case studies of similar international environmental species protection agreements will provide the data for an evidence-based plan to reach a species protection agreement between Russia and China.


Xiuxiu Zhang

Research Assistant for Environmental Research Center

Project 1: Deterrence of Public Interest Litigation

Public Interest Litigation in the area of environmental protection has been a new legal tool in China. Since 2007, some district courts in China set up Environmental Protection Tribunals, accepting environmental public interest litigations (PIL). PIL was Formally adopted in 2012. In January 2015, it has expanded standing beyond individual rights by granting administrative authorities, procuratorates, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) the ability to initiate environmental public interest litigation (PIL). 

More than 22 qualified NGOs have brought PIL cases to the court including Friends of Nature, All-China Environment Federation, China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation and so on. The number of the cases brought by NGOs has been growing to more than 205. 

Meanwhile, Prosecutor ate Office became predominant to bring PIL cases. More than thousands of cases have been concluded within 4 years.

How effective are these environmental cases? How can we assess the general deterrence and specific deterrence of this new legal scheme? How different stakeholders think about this method, do they think it is fair to them and how it changes industrial behavior? The project aims to evaluate PIL using social science method. A large scale of questionnaires and interviews will be concluded in order to obtain fist hand knowledge.

Project 2: Environmental Governance as a model in the perspective of Multiple-governance

Kunshan’s economic boom is top leading across China, partly because it’s location in Yangzi River Delta. However, Kunshan’s enforcement resources are limited, the Ecology and Environmental Protection Bureau has great challenge of environmental enforcement in Kunshan. The awareness level of environmental compliance is relatively high in Kunshan. The population of workers for industries is quite transient. 

Environmental governance has its advantages and disadvantages. As a local institution, we hope to engage in environmental governance by the basis of deep understanding and contribute our output to enforcement organs.

In this project, we will begin with data collecting and give introductive report about how Kunshan deal with enforcement challenges. We will conduct questionnaires and interviews with different stakeholders including prosecutorate, environmental judges, environmental inspection officers, NGOs and industries to obtain fist hand knowledge. 

After identification and mapping of potential issues, we will conduct discussion with related organs and provide academic opinions how they can improve their enforcement more effectively. We will also conduct further evaluation of improvement and changes. 


Yingjie Chen

Candidate of International Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP) 2020, Duke Kunshan University

Project: Media’s environmental perceptions of Belt and Road Initiative: A big data media analysis.

Quoted as “the best known, least understood foreign policy effort (to the western world” of the 21st century, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has borne highly polarized media perceptions. This research focuses on the media commentaries on BRI particularly from the environmental perspectives. Through synthesizing and analyzing the media presses and reports with environmental-related keywords, this research will conduct both quantitative tone assessment and concrete content analysis. Further, the final report will discuss what broader themes relate to the environmental issues along the Belt and Road, and shed light on how to communicate BRI with the global community.