Welcome to the Final Battle for the Climate

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China’s unilateral commitment to carbon neutrality by 2060 took the West by surprise. If President Xi Jinping’s words can be taken at face value, the country which emits more carbon dioxide than the United States, Europe, and Japan put together is embarking on a radical program of decarbonization. Climate change politics at a global level thus shift into a new gear.
There were no doubt tactical motives behind the timing of Xi’s announcement. But to imagine that China’s strategy is a propagandistic diversion or a concession to Western diplomacy—a liberal quid pro quo for Xi’s dictatorship—is both to overestimate Western leverage and to underestimate the climate problem. It is precisely because the Communist Party regime is bent on shaping the next century that its leader takes climate change seriously. In the calculus of the regime, Yangtze river floods are, like Hong Kong rights protestors, a threat to its grip on power. The future for Beijing’s authoritarian China Dream looks far more uncertain in a world of runaway global warming.
Xi’s move may scramble Western preconceptions, but it has been obvious since the beginning of this century that China would have the decisive …

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