China assumes climate mantle as USA falters

Paradigm shift: Xi has said China “will keep its door wide open and not close it.” © Getty

As the USA pulls out of the Paris climate accord, China has signalled its intention to lead the fight against climate change. A geopolitical shift is taking place. Should we welcome it?

Once, the world’s divisions were clear. The West was free, capitalist, prosperous. The East was authoritarian, communist, poor.

But now a new, more confusing world order is taking shape.

Take climate change. Yesterday, Donald Trump pulled the USA out of the Paris climate accord.

China, meanwhile, the world’s largest polluter, many of whose cities lie under a blanket of smog, appears to be taking the lead. Xi Jinping, China’s president, has confirmed that the country remains committed to the accord, and to drastically reducing its emissions.

Stephen Green, the former chairman of HSBC, is a firm believer that China will dominate the next century. China, he says, has a “boundless and insatiable curiosity” which puts the West in the shade.

Citing a growing middle-class, a huge appetite for the best education and an economic miracle that has meant that since 1981 the poverty rate fell from 85% to under 10%, he believes that China’s rise will be “infinitely enriching” for the world.

To those with a Eurocentric view of history, this may seem alarming, but many Chinese people feel they are the world’s natural superpower. Should we welcome this rise?

Planet China

“Yes we should”, say some. As Europe’s economy slows and the USA becomes more insular, the world needs a new, energetic driving force. China will do that job well. It has a rich culture and is emerging from its authoritarian past. It is adopting the liberal principles of the West. Let us embrace this.

“China has done an amazing PR job on the rest of the world,” reply others. Actually, it is a dictatorship which has appropriated the political language of the West, while still exploiting workers and locking up journalists. If people realise that freedom is no longer needed to be rich, how long can freedom itself last?

You Decide

  1. Do you think China will dominate the world by 2100? If not, who?

Activities

  1. Class debate: “This house believes that Chinese should be compulsory in schools.”

Some People Say...

“China may become economically dominant, but it will never be culturally dominant.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
We know that China’s president Xi Jinping is keen to make his country appear as the new torch-bearer of liberal internationalism and the fight against climate change.
What do we not know?
There are still huge unknowns. Is China serious about its commitments to openness and to cutting carbon emissions? Is it overdependent on its exports?

Word Watch

Cities
Four Chinese cities — Xingtai, Baoding, Shijuazhang and Handan — are among the top 20 most polluted cities in the world.
HSBC
The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation — one of the largest banks in the world.
World’s natural superpower
Professor James Petras writes: “The study of world power has been blighted by Eurocentric historians who have distorted and ignored the dominant role China played in the world economy between 1100 and 1800.”

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