Posted by: Jason | December 19, 2009

Shanghai Day 1

We got to Shanghai via overnight train from Wuhan, so our first day here started bright and early at 7:00 am.  Shanghai is the last stop on our tour of southern China, and we’ll be here for two and a half days before flying home (although “home” is widely scattered – out of the twelve students in our group, there are six countries represented).

We checked into the (very lovely) Howard Johnson Shanghai, showered, made our selves presentable, and had a meeting with Dr. Jiang of an international environmental consulting firm called Environ.  He gave us a presentation about municipal and industrial wastewater treatment in Shanghai (a topic we also covered in Chongqing, when we met with a representative of the city’s Environmental Protection Bureau), which is pretty fascinating stuff.  China is much more progressive than a lot of folks give them credit for (and this is coming from an independent environmental consultant – not a government official).  Just this week, for example, Beijing announced that it would like to start raising prices for domestic and commercial water use, in an effort to (1) conserve water and (2) create an environmental fund for water infrastructure projects.

Environ’s task is to help local and international businesses comply with China’s environmental regulations – which isn’t as easy as you might assume.  The Three Syncronies Policy, for example, requires new businesses to (1) design, (2) construct, and (3) operate pollution control facilities in parallel with their commercial industrial project.  Dr. Jiang was forthright about the challenges to China’s environmental regulations – government data aren’t reliable, connections with the local Environmental Protection Bureau can get regulations “waived”, and fines are too small to deter all but the least profitable violations.

In the afternoon, a Lawrence alum who works for A.O. Smith took us to the company’s brand-new water filtration factory.  It’s not only a new facility, but an entirely new market for them, so we were seeing their Shanghai facility in it’s incubation period.  Danielle told us a little about the company and her role in the Nanjing headquarters, and then we got a tour of the production, assembly, testing, packaging, and shipping floors.  I don’t know how representative it is of light industry across China, but as an example of Chinese manufacturing, it was eye-opening.  Although it was cold (everything in Shanghai is cold, but I think that’s my own failure – I should have taken Marty seriously when he warned me to pack a coat and hat), the production floors were professional, well-lit, open, and uncluttered.  After the tour, we got a chance to ask questions of the plant’s new director, and he was happy to talk about working conditions and environmental policies.  I wasn’t allowed to take pictures on the floor though, so alas, you’ll have to take my word for it.


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