The People’s Republic of China is the largest country in East Asia and the most populous in the world, with more than 1.3 billion people, approximately one-fifth of the world's population.
Starting in the late 1970s, China has experienced rapid economic growth, becoming the world’s largest exporter and second largest importer of goods. That growth has been accompanied by increased tourism, a reduction in the poverty rate, and other economic benefits, but it has also had a negative impact on the country’s resources and environment, including pollution, crowding, and other problems that come with rapid urbanization.
It became clear that China and the United States can learn from each other when it comes to urban governance. To provide a forum for this exchange, the ICMA China Center was formally established in 2011 as a partnership between ICMA and the China University of Political Science and Law. The Center is based in the university’s School of Politics and Public Administration in Beijing and draws on relevant faculty members from throughout the university. Its mission is to improve the quality of city management in China by providing information and services to Chinese city officials. Local government professionals from the United States will also have an opportunity to learn from the Chinese experience with rapid, large-scale urbanization.
Among the goals and objectives of the Center are to
- Establish cooperative relationships between ICMA and institutions and organizations in China to facilitate training and exchange programs
- Create comprehensive, fee-based education/training forums for local government officials, administrators, academics, and other interested individuals
- Create a domestic and international corporate partnership program to support the organization, sponsor events, and provide additional training participation opportunities
- Establish a certification and recognition program for individuals and local governments participating in ICMA China Center training programs.
Current and anticipated activities for the Center include research and information sharing, training and conferences for municipal officials, internships, study tours and other cultural exchanges, consulting and technical assistance, and publications.
ICMA International first became involved with China in 2008, through a memorandum of understanding with China Star International School, a China-based educational institution, to promote ICMA training and professional development in China. In 2009, ICMA signed another MOU with the city of Changsha, Hunan Province, pledging mutual cooperation to build the city’s capacity in municipal management through the exchange of information, management practices, and technical expertise. In 2010, ICMA provided leadership development training to Chinese students who were studying in the United States and hosted a group of Chinese officials tasked with public sector reform in cities and districts in Jiangsu Province.
During this time, ICMA has also provided technical assistance in the recovery of methane gas from landfills. China has surpassed the United States as the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas and contributor to global warming.
ICMA implemented a project designed to respond to this growing environmental concern through a public-private Methane to Markets (M2M) Partnership supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). The M2M program had a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by promoting the cost-effective, near-term recovery and use of methane and providing clean energy to markets around the world. The program, Landfill Gas: Creating Green Energy in China, used the ICMA CityLinks model to inform and equip local government leaders in China by sharing practices developed in the United States.
In 2010, ICMA provided a workshop, landfill tour, and technical assistance on Methane Gas Recovery from Landfills for Use as a Clean Energy Source in Changsha. This program was hosted by ICMA with support from USEPA’s Methane to Markets program. The workshop informed local government leaders in China and equipped them to recover methane gas from landfills for use as a clean energy source by sharing practices and delivering technical information through education, peer assistance, and demonstration. It delivered resources about landfill gas (LFG) capture systems, management issues and techniques, and financing methods.