Thursday, December 24, 2009

What was China's strategy in Copenhagen?

Was China dealing in bad faith in Copenhagen?

If you read Mark Lynas' piece in Tuesday's Guardian, you may well conclude, 'yes' they were dealing in bad faith.

Lynas' headline on the front page of the Guardian environment section says, "How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room.

Lynas goes on to detail several reasons why he feels China is responsible for the poor agreement that isn't even agreed.

He writes, "China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful "deal" so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame."

The humiliation to Obama, of course, originated with the Chinese Premier, Wen Jinbao, who did not attend the negotiating session on the night of Friday, Dec. 18, at which Obama spent several hours. So President Obama was forced to deal with some Chinese flunky, who would need to excuse himself periodically to call his bosses for guidance.

Having some personal experience with Asian cultural sensitivity in face-to-face interactions, the two conclusions I draw are that, firstly, Jinbao must have been keenly aware of the awkwardness and embarrassment he caused by not showing up. Second, and more important, though, I think his reason for not attending could have been influenced to some extent by a determination to not get into a face-to-face confrontation or disagreement with Obama.

The failure of Copenhagen to result in an agreement that would be considered useful in terms of alleviating Co2 emissions and global warming is widely being put on the Chinese.

No need to even mention here the ghost in the room, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was basically persona non grata anywhere and everywhere in Copenhagen. We might, however, consider what a difference it could have made if Canada were to have been an activist for tough emissions cuts, rather than trying not to be noticed. I would imagine that both the U.S. and China would have been pressured towards greater resolve in achieving a significant deal.

The next step, as I see it, is to let time do its work. In two weeks I believe we will have a much clearer idea of where Copenhagen has brought us.

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