China and the institute founded by Hank Paulson, the ex-US treasury secretary, will work together to establish a national parks system for the country and improve management of all of China's protected areas.
On Monday in Beijing, China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) signed a three-year agreement under which the Chicago-based institute will provide research and technological support.
"In the United States, our national parks are an important source of shared national pride and cultural identity, as well as treasured natural resources for the public to enjoy," Paulson said at the signing ceremony. "We are honored to be working with China to help develop a comprehensive and effective system of protected areas by adding national parks into the system."
The Chinese government has selected nine regions to take part in a pilot program for a national parks system. The regions are Beijing, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Zhejiang, Fujian, Hubei, Hunan, Yunnan and Qinghai.
The program will help gauge how the management of conservation areas, such as nature reserves, forest and geological areas, and world heritage sites, in China can be improved, with some measures possibly being rolled out nationwide as the country's national parks system begins to take shape, the NDRC said.
China has a small number of national parks, but the country also is home to thousands of unprotected areas that cover about one-fifth (18 percent) of China's total land, a figure well above the world's average, according to the Paulson Institute.
Paulson founded the institute in 2011, and it is based at the University of Chicago, with offices in Washington and Beijing. One of the Institute's main goals is to promote economic growth and environmental preservation in China and the US.
The institute's think tank publishes papers on macroeconomic and energy issues facing China, as well as matters involving US-China relations.
A herd of bison graze in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Jim Urquhart / Reuters
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