An introduction to Karl McAlinden; GERC PhD student in Contemporary Chinese Studies

By Karl McAlinden; GERC affiliated PhD student in the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham

Let me start by saying it’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to write for the GERC blog and to introduce a little about myself and my current PhD project.

During my time at Queen’s University, Belfast, were I was studying a BA (Hons) in politics, I yearned for the opportunity to travel, to work abroad and to learn a foreign language. While I had been volunteering for the Chernobyl Children’s project and even visited Belarus, Ukraine and Russia to visit orphanages and hospitals, this sparked my interest in sustainable development and environmentally related work. When approached at a university careers fair about opportunities to work for the British Council in China, teaching at a local high school, I jumped in with two feet. Moving on to teach at the university level, I also enrolled at a Chinese university to undertake Mandarin Chinese classes. While living and studying in a beautiful touristy part of the city, every day for work I would travel to one of China’s many high-tech development parks, where most of the universities were based and I noticed heavily polluted rivers and skies which only increased my urge to do something about it. Returning to Queen’s the following year I studied a M.Sc. in sustainable development and took the opportunity to return to China to intern at an environment NGO, as well as political parties and economic developmental agencies in Ireland.

Eager to return to China upon graduation, I continued with my studies and held a job working for one of China’s most renowned environmentalists, Ma Jun. While the work we did was government approved, we definitely tread a fine line, pushing the boundaries in order to make a real social and environment improvement. My primary role there was to research, record and communicate with large multi-nations about environmental violation with their Chinese suppliers. With our records, at that time, well over one hundred thousand cases and growing rapidly, we frequently released industry reports to push these companies into improving their supply chain management, primarily by forcing their companies to undergo supervised third party environmental audits. While this was a wholly satisfying job, after a number of years I sought further opportunities and was employed as a Project Manager for a European Union technical assistance project which focused on bringing together the European Commission departments and Chinese ministries to work on bilateral matters to support China’s trade reform and the sustainable development agendas. After some time, I received news from the University of Nottingham and GERC that I had been awarded a three year studentship to study my PhD at Nottingham, so I returned to the UK.

Presenting at conferences and workshops

IEAGHG CCS summer school in Perth
Focusing on China’s adoption of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), its domestic demand, and the influence the international community has on the diffusion of the technologies and its related policies, I am now in my final year and hope to finish my thesis in the coming months. Having carried out my fieldwork in China, were I travelled from north to south and east to west, interviewing key Chinese CCUS-related stakeholders, I have made some amazing contacts and collaborated on some interesting projects. While also attending internal doctoral training courses, UK wide conferences and CCS winter schools, last December I was lucky enough to gain a place on the IEAGHG CCS summer school in Perth, Australia, and took the opportunity to meet with many of the CCS stakeholders there. Currently undertaking a fellowship at Fudan University, Shanghai, the next few months will be consumed with writing my thesis and hoping visiting Chinese demonstration projects. Due to return to the UK in May and already thinking about my next move, I would love to continue building bridges between China and the UK and hope there will be opportunities for greater CCUS-related Sino-international cooperation in the future. Of course, if anyone has any advice or information, I’d be very pleased to hear from them (Email:, LinkedIn:

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