I had an amazing and classic New England/Vermont Father’s Day weekend with my father and my daughters that included Red Sox games, a Bruins victory parade, canoeing and swimming, and a picnic in the park. I now find myself in Hong Kong in route to China, as I will meet with our Asian partners as part of the U.S.-China Partnership in
Environmental Law at Vermont Law School. I’m very comfortable in Hong Kong, and the first thing I do is read the South China Morning Post because so many articles always deal with environmental and public health concerns. Today’s reading included stories on flooding in China, pesticide usage on Hong Kong farms, air pollution in Guangdong, and river pollution in Wuhan.

Also fascinating is reading articles about Hong Kong’s relationship to the mainland Chinese government, and the constant protests and political resignations in Hong Kong, all in the name of Hong Kong self-rule. Thus, this morning Hong Kong time, as I watched the President of the United States speak about troop withdrawals in Afghanistan and “nation-building” at home, I’ve come to two thoughts. First, nation-building takes a long time, and, thus, I question, absent colonialism (which I am not advocating) how one country can “build” another nation, at least in a short time. As an example, it took 89 years from declaring independence until the end of the American Civil War. Second, to the extent that U.S. foreign policy wants to promote democratic principles (at minimum, meaning
self-rule), what is the appropriate scope of involvement? And, long-term, given the United States’ strong bond with China, how should America handle Chinese involvement in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, and areas in the South China Sea? I have no answers on this last point, only questions and an interested eye.