Allen Carlson, professor of government at Cornell University and author of “New Frontiers in China’s Foreign Relations” (2011), comments on the impact President Obama’s re-election and China’s transitioning government could have on climate change.
“Developing a meaningful response to climate change will require discovering a way to bring China into whatever proposed solution that ends up being forwarded. While we know very little about the next generation of China’s leaders, and what their own priorities are, it is clear that environmental concerns within the Chinese population are growing, and, as evidence in a series of recent demonstrations around the country, even the source of social instability there.
“Given such a context, it is conceivable that China’s leaders may be motivated to subtly shift their stance on climate change from the generally uninvolved, even obstructionist, positions they have taken in the recent past – most notably in Copenhagen in 2009.
“In light of such a confluence of factors, it is then possible to imagine that Obama, freed of constraints of running for another term, motivated by an interest in his legacy, and China’s leaders operating within a different system of costs and benefits, might be able to find common ground in fostering the development of a new, rigorous multilateral agreement on climate issues.
“We normally then think of U.S.-China relations in terms of eagles, dragons and panda bears, but it may, in the end, be the polar bears that will benefit the most from the confluence of leadership developments on both sides of the Pacific.”
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