Wang Huiyao: No country is an island in the climate crisis

Wang 中国与全球化智库 2020-10-18

Op-ed of Financial Times

By Wang Huiyao | Founder of 

the Center for China and Globalization(CCG)

A record-breaking temperature of 38C was registered in the Arctic town of Verkhoyansk on June 20. Photo: © ECMWF Copernicus Climate Change Service/AP

Birth of the UN shows dramatic change is possible when world powers face a shared existential threat

Statistically, the over-70s don’t do well with Covid-19. Unfortunately, the UN seems to be no exception. The pandemic should have been a chance to revive the organisation and prove its relevance during its 75th anniversary. Instead, failure to co-ordinate an effective global response has laid bare its fractures and fragilities. However, that need not be the case for an even greater threat the world faces: climate change.

Following the northern hemisphere’s hottest summer on record, calls for global climate action are at a fever pitch. At the UN’s annual assembly last month, secretary-general António Guterres drilled home again the need for climate-positive action to rebuild economies after the pandemic. Two days earlier, China’s President Xi Jinping made a landmark pledge: the country will be carbon-neutral by 2060. And about a week before that, US presidential-hopeful Joe Biden made a powerful speech putting climate at the centre of his vision. This sees the US rejoining the Paris climate accord and investing $2tn to help the country become carbon neutral by 2050.

It might seem a faint hope at the moment that the world’s two major powers can work together on anything. But the birth of the UN shows that dramatic change is possible when facing a shared existential threat. In 1949, that meant averting nuclear war. The UN has since become politicised and failed to prevent many tragedies. Nevertheless, its core mission has been a success. Since the second world war, there has been neither a global conflict nor a nuclear weapon used in anger.

Fast-forward 75 years and the world again faces risks that no country can manage alone. Like nuclear war, climate change assures mutual destruction if states can’t work together. It will just happen gradually, rather than with a bang.

The collaborative impetus needed to address the climate crisis should go far beyond avoiding catastrophe. Green co-operation represents a chance to create jobs and rebuild more prosperous and equal societies. The World Bank estimates that climate-smart investment opportunities worth almost $23tn have opened up in emerging markets. There are possibilities for cross-border partnerships in decarbonisation. Such activity could produce a political dividend by creating “green ballast” that help keeps global collaboration on an even keel.

The case for post-pandemic green multilateralism is clear. And while the political obstacles are formidable, there are ways to give it a fighting chance.

One challenge is how to kickstart progress. Before the next UN Climate Change Conference in November 2021, major powers should get together under the umbrella of a climate-oriented G10 in order to forge a fresh consensus. Adding China, India and Russia to the existing G7 would expand its representation from 10 per cent to 47 per cent of the world’s population. It would include the world’s six largest carbon emitters. Crucially, it would bridge faultlines between industrialised and developing nations that have hampered previous negotiations. The G10 body would be representative of global climate interests, but also streamlined enough to make rapid progress possible.

Simultaneously, China, the EU and the US should develop a trilateral mechanism to spur green co-operation and climate-oriented reform of bodies such as the UN and World Trade Organization. Working in concert, these three powers have the clout to galvanise reform of global governance and move markets to adopt climate-friendly technologies and standards.

If all this sounds like a fairytale, remember that there is an alternative ending to the story. If we do not harness its cohesive potential, climate change will become a destabilising, geopolitical “risk multiplier”. It will aggravate stress on societies and institutions by exacerbating demographic pressures from climate migration, and will open new areas for rivalry, from Arctic waterways to climate-adaptive technologies and the minerals that enable them. Climate change could also increase the risk of future pandemics by damaging natural habitats and raising the risk of zoonotic transmission.

Clearly, the chance of a green revival of multilateralism hinges on the outcome of the US presidential election in November. And, to be clear, multilateral consensus on climate change will neither stop global rivalries nor solve all the world’s problems.

Nevertheless, it will be an important start. As the UN’s second secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld famously remarked, the UN’s purpose is not to get us to heaven but to save us from hell.

From Financial Times , 2020-10-15

CCG Books

● Published by Springer 

● Edited by Wang Huiyao, President and Miao Lu, Vice President, Center for China and Globalization(CCG), Beijing, China 

More Information

The internationalization of Chinese enterprises is one of the most notable aspects of economic globalization in the 21st century. Despite the 2008 financial crisis and weak global outbound investment, under the “go global“ initiative, Chinese outbound investment has gone from strength to strength, while also diversifying in terms of investment modalities, destinations, and industries. However, growing anti-globalization sentiment in some countries has also created new challenges for Chinese firms expanding internationally.

Drawing on nearly 3000 data samples, using both quantitative and qualitative research methods, this book presents unique insights into the features and patterns of Chinese enterprises’ globalization. The analysis provides a useful reference for enterprises that have already gone global and those that plan to. In particular, this book investigates challenges confronted by Chinese companies when doing business in foreign countries. It summarizes research covering three angles, namely: the current situation, causation analysis and corresponding solutions, and recommendations for firms, government agencies and other institutions.

This book provides a comprehensive overview to help readers to grasp the broad picture of the international expansion of Chinese enterprises. It has important reference value for enterprises to help devise foreign investment strategy, seize opportunities, and navigate challenges in the course of globalization.

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● Published by Edward Elgar 

● Edited by Wang Huiyao, President and Miao Lu, Vice President, Center for China and Globalization(CCG), Beijing, China 

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An excellent guide for understanding the trends, challenges and opportunities facing China through globalization, this Handbook answers the pertinent questions regarding the globalization process and China’s influence on the world.

With contributions from leading experts and international researchers, each chapter covers key topics regarding China’s participation in globalization, including: China’s new role in global economic governance; outward direct investment; China’s soft power and the implications for foreign relations; global migration, diaspora and talent. An enriching range of case studies and extensive empirical research are used to explore the successes and failures of globalization in China, and to discuss the dilemmas facing decision makers in today’s globalized world. A major contribution to the field, this Handbook offers valuable insights to China’s often misunderstood globalization process.

An essential reference for academics and researchers looking for a go-to empirical resource, this Handbook provides scholars of economics, politics and East Asian studies with an exemplary selection of contemporary research on China and globalization.

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● Published by Springer

● Authors: Wang Huiyao, President and Miao Lu, Vice President, Center for China and Globalization(CCG), Beijing, China 

The first effort to address the gap regarding higher-end talent within the scholarly work on internal labor migration in China

Provides an essential overview of the major milestones in China’s talents attraction policies, as well as several recommendations to help further improve those policies

Investigates corresponding policies in Germany, Japan, and Singapore to serve as a basis for comparison

Provides a snapshot of first-hand reference material for relevant stakeholders involved in cooperation with China

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This book offers the most comprehensive, up-to-date assessment of China’s domestic and international migration. Restructuring economic development requires large numbers of educated and skilled talents, but this effort comes at a time when the size of China’s domestic workforce is shrinking. In response, both national and regional governments in China have been keen to encourage overseas Chinese talents and professionals to return to the country. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has initiated a number of policies to attract international highly-skilled talents and enhance the country’s competitiveness, and some Chinese policies have started attracting foreign talents, who are coming to the country to work, and even to stay. Since Chinese policies, mechanisms, and administration efforts to attract and retain skilled domestic or overseas talents are helping to reshape China’s economy and are significantly affecting the cooperation on migration and talent mobility, these aspects, in addition to being of scholarly and research interest, hold considerable commercial potential.

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