River Cities and Sustainable Development: Facing the Future in China and Myanmar


To download the application with all the instructions for a new iteration of the China summer program in 2015, please click the PDF or Word file below.

2015 China Summer Program Brochure (PDF)

2015 China Summer Program Application (PDF)

Please read Dr. Chen's article featured in the Spring 2014 IIE Networker:  The Translocal Urban Nexus in International Education:  Trinity College in China and Southeast Asia

  A Traveling Investigation of Shanghai, Chongqing, Yangon, and Mandalay

For centuries, the Yangtze River was a major artery in China’s internal and external movement of goods and people, and many of its cities derived their importance directly from their positions on the river’s banks. The megacities of Chongqing and Shanghai anchor the upper reaches and lower mouth of the Yangtze River. While Shanghai has been growing rapidly into China’s premier global city by benefiting from its favorable coastal location, Chongqing, as the largest inland river port on the Yangtze, has become the most important and influential center for China’s “Go West” campaign to speed up the development of its vast and much poorer interior region.

Studying Shanghai and Chongqing in a comparative framework provides a key to understanding the powerful role of both river cities as drivers of China’s rapid urbanization. The development of Yangtze cities is supported by strong economic growth and powerfully structured central government devoted to continuing reform. And while environmental and other challenges derived from swift urban growth do remain to be addressed, Shanghai and Chongqing are well situated to draw lessons from experience.

Like the Yangtze River in China, the Irrawaddy River is Myanmar’s largest and most important commercial waterway. It flows from north to south and empties through the Irrawaddy Delta into the Andaman Sea near Yangon. After Rudyard Kipling’s poem, the Irrawaddy is sometimes referred to as “The Road to Mandalay.” Myanmar was a British colony subordinate until the 1930s to India and during the Second World War a part of Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and a battleground for clashing armies. Escaping the residual burdens of the era of imperialism directly influenced Myanmar’s evolution as politicians and soldiers struggled to build a new society capable of unifying a vast and ethnically diverse state after 1945. Post-independence governments embraced autarky and problematic ideologies for many decades, and the result was generalized poverty and the emergence of cities that languished as others elsewhere in Asia moved ahead.

In summer 2015, under the aegis of the Center for Urban and Global Studies (CUGS) and with creative inspiration and support from The Henry Luce Foundation, the O’Neill Asia Cum Laude Endowment, the Thomas Urban China Studies Endowment, and the Charlotte Riggs Scholarship Fund, Trinity College will launch a new summer program taking a group of students to China and Myanmar, where they will investigate critical historical, socioeconomic, and environmental questions confronting the river cities of Shanghai, Chongqing, Yangon, and Mandalay. Local circumstances are markedly different for Chinese and Burmese river cities, but drawing them together offers a fascinating way to glimpse what the future may hold as urban experience becomes common property within an interconnected regional setting. The program will carry 1.5 course credits and one-half Chinese language credit through the initial classroom learning and field visits in Hartford and subsequent traveling instruction by five Trinity professors and local experts. The program dates are June 8-30, 2015 and comprises two specific courses below:

URST/INTS 313 (1.5 credits): River Cities of Asia (Michael Lestz, Joan Morrison, Beth Notar)

The major cities of Asia all came into being in the basins of great rivers that course from the Himalayas to the seas. Cities are typically established along rivers because of the benefits of the water resources and the functions of rivers in the removal of waste, the production of energy, and the movement of goods. From the earliest eras of Asian history, these river cities constituted political and cultural centers, marketing axes, and transportation hubs that shaped civilizations and ecological systems. Today, throughout Asia, many cities are undergoing rapid growth resulting in dramatic economic, social, cultural, and environmental transformation. Because of the strong relationship between cities and rivers, such rapid growth puts increasing pressures on water resources, river ecosystems, and the human frameworks that evolve as the river city becomes a magnet for rural immigration and the setting of new economic activity. Using two prominent river/city systems, the Yangtze and the Irrawaddy, as case studies, this course will provide integrated historical, cultural, and environmental understandings of four key cities — Shanghai, Chongqing, Mandalay, and Yangon — located on the banks of these waterways. The course will examine the historical emergence of the cities we visit, explore interrelationships between urban expansion and environmental consequences of rapid economic growth, and examine people’s perceptions of environmental and cultural change in China and Myanmar.

CHIN 150 (.5 credit): Conversational Chinese in Asian Cities (Yipeng Shen)

This course is designed to prepare students’ basic language skills for participating in Trinity’s Summer Program in China. It aims to build students’ basic skills in spoken Chinese with emphasis on basic greetings and survival phrases for first-time travelers. Only students in the China Summer Program are allowed to enroll in this course. Students with prior Chinese language study must obtain the permission of the instructor. This course does not count toward the College-wide second language requirement but may be applied to fulfill the LACS -administered Chinese language minor requirement.​

Xiangming ​Chen
Michael Lestz
Joan Morrison 
Beth Notar
Yipeng Shen 

​ Please click here to view the 2015 China Program Summer Study Away brochure.  The 2015 deadline has passed.  Thank you for your interest.  Please come back for the 2016 deadline.