Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Towards a new world order for climate change: China and the European Union's leadership ambition

Dai, Xiudian; Diao, Zhiping


Xiudian Dai

Zhiping Diao


James Connelly


Traditional Chinese thinking holds that human development and nature are in ‘one’ (harmony, or ). The notion of harmony between nature and society suggests that the ancient Chinese were already aware of the importance of the ecological system to human life. In order to boost agricultural production at all costs, Mao Zedong told his nation that human beings will eventually conquer nature ( ). Contrary to this ambition, a much damaged environment fought back with numerous natural disasters. In a similar vein, Deng Xiaoping’s economic reform and opening up policies turned China into a twenty-first century world factory, which is now warming up and waiting to be saved before it reaches ‘burning’ point. Will China succeed in pursuing economic development without destroying the long-perceived harmony between human beings and the environment? What impact does China have upon the international politics of climate change, and vice versa? Especially, what opportunities does China bring to the European Union (EU) for the latter to strengthen its global leadership in fighting climate change? It is generally agreed that China’s energy use will rapidly increase greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs) at the global level (Konan and Zhang 2008) and that, therefore, the success of any global effort to address global climate change requires the active cooperation of all big GHGE emitters including China (Siddiqi 2008). On the other hand, international support is indispensable for China to achieve the dual goals of mitigating climate change and sustainable development, namely, a low-carbon economy (Ding, Dai, and Zhao 2008). In the view of the EU, China is not merely a contributor to global warming but also a contributor to global solutions to climate change problems. It is not inconceivable for EU-China relations in the field of climate change to develop into a win-win situation: the EU needs China on board to help achieve a post-Kyoto deal, while China recognises that the EU can offer China the latest clean-energy technologies thus reducing GHGE. This chapter first looks into China’s internal policy on climate change for the simple reason that the role of domestic policy in limiting the growth of GHGE in developing countries is seen as crucial (Jotzo, 2008). This includes, beginning with the next section, a brief survey of the Chinese attitude towards the issue of climate change, before turning to the evolution of the Chinese climate change policy, institutional responses and the question of whether ecological modernisation constitutes a centrepiece of the Chinese policy. Secondly, this chapter analyses the interplay between China and the international community in climate change politics, with a focus on EU-China cooperation. This is followed by a discussion on China’s implementation of its international climate change obligations, before concluding with an overall assessment of the extent to which cooperation between the EU and China has impacted upon the shaping of a new world order for climate change.


Dai, X., & Diao, Z. (2010). Towards a new world order for climate change: China and the European Union's leadership ambition. In R. Wurzel, & J. Connelly (Eds.), The European Union as a leader in international climate change politics (252-268). London: Routledge.

Acceptance Date Mar 1, 2010
Online Publication Date Nov 1, 2010
Publication Date Oct 29, 2010
Publisher Routledge
Pages 252-268
Book Title The European Union as a leader in international climate change politics
Chapter Number 15
ISBN 9781136888243; 9780415640138; 9780415580472
Public URL