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China and International Geography at the AAG

"Crossing Borders"

A column by Doug Richardson, Executive Director, Association of American Geographers

photo of Doug RichardsonOne of the greatest pleasures of a sometimes grueling travel schedule is the opportunity to meet with my counterparts and colleagues at other geographic societies around the world. I always try to find time to meet with them; to share information and news regarding geography and GIScience; to discuss possible collaborations; and, when possible, to participate in their annual meetings.

This past year at the AAG meeting in New York City, New York, everyone in attendance had the opportunity to welcome the leaders of geographic societies from around the globe. A set of special sessions featured dozens of reports of the status of geography and GIScience in other countries from the top officials of their national geographic associations. This kaleidoscope of international geography and GIS also provided a venue for leaders of international associations to interact with one another, as well as for AAG meeting attendees to get to know personally some of the leading geographers from other countries. These special sessions, entitled Snapshots: Geography in the World Today, will also be a featured event during the AAG's next Annual Meeting, to be held in Los Angeles, California, April 9-13, 2013. Please join me and our international guests in Los Angeles for what promises to be a fascinating exchange on the status of geography and GIS worldwide.

During my sabbatical this past year, I also was able to meet with many and varied geographic societies throughout Europe and Asia in their own countries. Many of these international associations are now working together with the AAG on ongoing projects, such as The International Encyclopedia of Geography and on preparations for a geography and GIS presence at the decadal United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Conference (also known as Rio+20), that was held in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I would like to thank Esri for its long and crucial participation in the AAG's My Community, Our Earth: Geographic Learning for Sustainable Development (MyCOE) partnership.

New Collaborations with China

As part of a two-month visiting professorship at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) this past year, I was fortunate to be able to attend the annual meeting of the Geographical Society of China (GSC), held in Urumqi (Wulamuqi) in Xinjiang Province in the far west of China, as well as to work with many others throughout China to establish and solidify collaborative initiatives between the AAG and key Chinese geographic institutions, including the CAS, the GSC, and many university geography departments.

Esri's pioneering GIS systems are in widespread use in China and throughout Asia, both in universities and in government and industry. Many of China's booming cities rely on ArcGIS to plan, design, and manage their infrastructure, as well as to understand the complex interactions between their changing urban environments and human activities.

To better understand these urban spatial processes, the AAG has joined with the Hong Kong Geographical Society and the Geographical Society of China to help organize and support the Conference on Spatial and Social Transformations of Urban China scheduled for December 13-14, 2012. Building on the theme of this Hong Kong conference, AAG's incoming president Eric Sheppard also will be developing a track of sessions at the AAG Los Angeles conference in 2013 on international cities and urban systems, with a special emphasis on the urban explosion in Asia.

The joint projects and programs under way between the AAG and multiple Chinese geography institutions now encompass geographic research, international online education, publications, specialty scientific meetings, larger international conferences, and academic exchanges at all levels. An AAG-GSC Liaison and Coordination Committee has been established to help manage, sustain, and expand these cooperative efforts. Its initial members include eight leading geographers from China and the United States: Michael Solem (AAG), Zhou Chenghu (CAS), Liu Weidong (CAS), Zhang Guoyou (CSG), Yu Lizhong (president of East Normal China University), Mei-Po Kwan (UC Berkeley), Alexander Murphy (University of Oregon), and myself. The projects undertaken to date are topically cross-cutting and designed to produce progress in geography in both countries and foster broader personal and professional interaction among individual geographers and GIScientists from the United States and China.

The Geographical Society of China and the Association of American Geographers solidified their growing collaborative relationship and activity during a formal signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding during the AAG's recent Annual Meeting in New York City.

Asian geographers and GIScientists are attending the AAG Annual Meeting in rapidly growing numbers each year. I encourage you to join us in welcoming our international attendees from Asia—as well as from all countries—at the next AAG meeting in Los Angeles in 2013 and to explore with them ways in which we might mutually benefit from our exchanges and strengthen geography and GIScience through our collective efforts. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy the upcoming Los Angeles conference, meeting old and new friends, enriching our discipline and ourselves intellectually and socially, and perhaps along the way also addressing the many needs of our interconnected world.�—Doug Richardson

For more information about the AAG and the Los Angeles meeting, see

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