Learning from Practitioners: HNC Study Trips

Learning from Practitioners: HNC Study Trips

Since the resumption of regular domestic travel in China last December, Hopkins-Nanjing Center faculty have resumed a long-standing HNC tradition: study trips. Study trips, typically led by faculty members, explore particular aspects of HNC courses in practice. Three study trips have been arranged in the past six months related to China studies, law, and green development.

China Studies Trip to Anhui Province

Professor Hua Tao with students in Zaojia Village
Students with Nanjing University faculty 

I was on one of the first study trips after China’s Covid policies eased in mid-December last year. In this trip, Professor Hua Tao led students on a trip to Zaojia Village (造甲乡) on the outskirts of Hefei, the capital city of Anhui province. On this trip, we spoke with local officials about rural governance, development, and business. We visited the local party headquarters to speak with Zaojia’s Party Secretary, a service center to speak with local community organizers, as well as an indoor mushroom farm and a rice and crayfish farm. 

Throughout the trip, we had frank discussions with officials and business owners alike on public finance, local history, and the steps that local businesses were taking to make their companies more competitive in China’s emergent digital economy. Under professor Hua’s guidance, we learned how to ask insightful, productive questions that officials would be comfortable answering. 

Ultimately, the trip was a worthwhile conclusion to Professor Hua’s “Social Problems of China’s Modernization” course. My classmates and I were able to witness firsthand the governance challenges that China’s local officials face on a day to day basis, which were a key feature of the course. 

Law Trip to Nanjing People's Procuratorate

Students and faculty on the steps of the Procuratorate

In March, students took a trip to the Nanjing People’s Procuratorate, led by HNC professor Zhang Miao in connection to his course on Chinese criminal law. HNC certificate student Wenjun Luo reflected that “the visit deepened my understanding of the class content, such as the criminal prosecution, civil prosecution, administrative prosecution, and public interest litigation. Our findings from the field visit corroborated what I learned in my law classes, but also provided valuable insights that went beyond course material.” 

Environmental Studies Trip to Chenzhuang Smart Village Experiment

Students and faculty in Chenzhuang Village

Lastly, in April, students and faculty visited Chenzhuang Village in Nanjing's neighboring city of Jurong with HNC ERE Professor Zhang Haiyan to study natural agriculture, green rural infrastructure, and rural residential construction projects. Students and faculty visited the Knowledge Rural Experimental Station of the Nanjing Institute of Geography and Lakes, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and had discussions with Chinese Academy of Sciences teachers and villagers on rural knowledge areas, community co-construction, and sustainable rural development. 

Chad Higgenbottom (HNC Certificate 2023) saw the trip as an opportunity to learn about how local officials balance economic progress. "A valuable economic question is whether modernization and increased living standards can be achieved in a community without significantly disrupting traditional means of employment," Higgenbottom observed. "Our guide emphasized that constructing a lasting ecology in a village or area like Chenzhuang is considerably more difficult than erecting a run-of-the-mill tourism apparatus given how tried, tested and formulaic the latter has become in China, but a strong ecology keeps grasses green and a village-level economy more sustainable and tethered to its rural roots."

Written by Alec Nash, MAIS 2024