Chinese land-use officials visit PSU

    Portland State University hosted 29 Chinese land-use officials last week as part of a sustainability training program that could change the way China develops its infrastructure.

    The delegates, Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources officials, representing 11 different provinces, studied sustainable urban development at PSU.  They also visited sites ranging from a Metro-area organic farm to the urban growth boundary.

    "The Chinese learn from us, and our professors, community partners, and PSU students learn from the Chinese," said Professor Marcus Ingle, the director for international public service at the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government’s Executive Leadership Institute. "We call it a ‘win and learn’ approach."

    Last week’s group studied zoning, consensus building, and the principles behind "cradle-to-cradle design."

    Cradle-to-cradle design is the brainchild of Virginia architect and China-U.S. Center for Sustainable Development co-founder William McDonough. Its fundamental premise is that waste elements inside a system should fuel other activities inside that same system, and the China-U.S. Center has set about altering an existing village named Huangbaiyu around that principle.

    The training program is an initiative of the China-U.S. Center for Sustainable Development, a Portland-based international organization, which has been co-sponsoring similar trainings over the last six years.

    Three Chinese delegations attend training sessions in Portland each year. In August a group from China’s Ministry of Construction comes to study Portland’s urban planning, and in September and October the city hosts two groups from China’s Ministry of Land and Resources.

    These trainings may also contribute to the general way China’s industrialization process unfolds. In Portland in 2004, China’s vice minister of the Ministry of Construction unveiled an ambitious nation-wide sustainability initiative at the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuilding conference.

    Portland’s sustainability advocates are enthusiastic about taking part in this process, Ingle said.

    "We have a lot to learn from them, and in the end we’re directly tied to them,” he said. “We’re going to wake up one day and realize that the quality of our air here in the Willamette Valley is largely decided by the coal that China is burning."

    Bob Wise, a senior associate at the sustainable planning firm Cogan Owens Cogan, agreed that Oregon and China are intertwined.

    "Oregon has more trade with greater China than Japan does," he said.

In the six years that the training program has been active, it has brought more than 400 delegates to Portland, including 17 deputy director-generals. These officials have represented every province and autonomous region in China except for two.

    The program is sponsored by China’s Ministry of Land and Resources, its Ministry of Construction, PSU, the China-US Center, the International Sustainable Development Foundation and the Counselors of Real Estate.

    Ingle said PSU is seeking community partners who "share PSU’s vision of further developing Portland as a model for sustainable urban development, in cooperation with our Chinese partners."

Casey Cleary, program coordinator at the China-US Center, concurred. "We definitely want to expand."