Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Chinese Chief Climate Negotiator Xie Zhenhua has expressed skepticism about President-elect Trump’s commitment to keep his campaign promises, claiming that Trump has “softened his tone” on Climate Change, in the face of Chinese and international pressure.
Trump warming to reality of climate change, says senior Chinese official
Beijing’s chief climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, talks down fears that joint leadership shown by China and the US will be reversed under new president.
China’s chief climate negotiator has attempted to calm fears that Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House will spell disaster for the fight against climate change.
Climate scientists and campaigners have expressed alarm at the impact the presence of so many climate deniers and environmental enemies in Trump’s cabinet could have on efforts to prevent catastrophic and irreversible global warming.
But speaking to the government-run China Daily newspaper, China’s special representative for climate change, Xie Zhenhua, played down such concerns.
Xie reaffirmed Beijing’s “firm attitude” towards fighting global warming and noted that the incoming US president had “softened his tone on whether climate change is real” following his election in November.
In an interview with the New York Times after his shock victory Trump said he had an “open mind” about how he would approach the issue and conceded there was “some connectivity” between global warming and human activity.
Xie, a Communist party veteran who spent more than a decade at the helm of China’s environmental agency, told the China Daily the global momentum behind the push towards a low carbon future was now such that no one person was capable of halting progress.
“Industrial upgrades aiming for more sustainable growth is a global trend … It is not something that can be reversed by a single political leader,” he was quoted as saying.
It is possible Xie Zhenhua is simply playing to his home audience, but I think it more likely the Chinese still don’t fully understand Western politics.
Everyone assumes the head of a dictatorship like China is all powerful, but in my opinion this is often not the case. Most Chinese leaders have very limited freedom to act. Leaders of dictatorships have no legitimacy, so they inspire no real loyalty – one misstep, and they are torn down and replaced by their ambitious underlings.
The American system doesn’t work this way. Trump is currently more powerful, and has more freedom to implement his policies, than any Chinese leader since Mao, because Trump has something which no mainland Chinese politician in living memory has ever experienced – a mandate from the people.