China: ‘How did Copenhagen end up our fault?’

Before Chinese coal dust had time to settle on the snow in Denmark, China had been accused of hijacking negotiations at the Copenhagen climate change summit last month in an aim to protect its own economic interests.

Is China a convenient scapegoat for other major polluting economies? In an interview with Danwei, The Guardian Asia Environment Correspondent Jonathan Watts states: “China and the US, the world's two biggest emitters, came away happier as they can now continue emitting without legal constraints for a longer period of time, perhaps indefinitely.”

A number of articles in Watts’ newspaper this past week have held China chiefly responsible for what many see as the failure in Copenhagen to reach a more progressive agreement. But doesn't America's economic stability now rely on China's continued high-polluting economic growth? More interestingly, why is Beijing so touchy on the issue of foreign monitoring on Chinese soil of the country's progress in reducing emissions?

Greenpeace China photo of action for #COP in Beijing

Greenpeace China photo of action for #COP in Beijing

For a summary of some of the accusations against China, scroll down to veteran journalist's Rose Luqiu's December 25 blog post on the subject. The Guardian article accusing China of hijacking negotiations at Copenhagen was quickly translated and has been posted in a many number of online spaces; at, Nick Tung makes the comment that:


A highly-industrialized China is going to need to emit carbon. Regulation of carbon emissions will mean regulation of industrial development, a road China will not choose on its own. This article is too one-sided, not much worth in the long run. It makes Obama out to be a messiah or something. Maybe in America he is, but for the rest of the world, not even.

At Baidu, user zhangyanwu007 finds some common ground in criticism being made of China:


China has been accused of “hijacking” negotiations at the Copenhagen climate change summit, and I can completely understand why some countries would see it that way. Even though China is still a developing country, it can't use that as an excuse to disregard the objectives set for the Copenhagen climate change summit. China is a developing country, but it's not a superpower, and with the world's greatest population, its pollution levels are quite serious. So the reasons for it to be responsible also surpass those of any other country on earth. The Copenhagen climate change summit was not meant for haggling a bargain, but a meeting for taking responsibility for the existence of humanity. People should not be shirking their responsibility or looking for excuses, instead they should be brave and accept their responsibility!

More typical this week is the kind of articulate retort given by Wykehamist blogger Jiong:


My view is simple and straightforward: say whatever you want, China wasn't sincere about attending Copenhagen, so what? Was America? Didn't America openly refuse to take part in the Kyoto Protocol or any agreement like it? As a developing country with a fourth of the CO2 emissions per person of America, and half that of the ever green-talking Europe, why on earth should China commit itself to reducing emissions? Or do white people have the right to emit twice or four times as much carbon dioxide as yellow people?
I think Chinese officials acted splendidly at the Copenhagen summit; this was the first time for me to see China be bold like Americans in standing up tough for its own interests. As old as Wen Jiabao is, he flew all the way to that crappy little backwater city for the meeting, and attended in full sincerity, knowing that it wouldn't have mattered if he attended all the meetings or just hid in a back room and slept through it all, that the outcome would have been the same, that being not much at all. All we need now is to get thicker skin and just ignore it when newspapers in second-tier countries like England publish idiotic reports that come out shouting and cursing.

Comments on the translated Lynas piece at the GZNF bbs read:


Just who was the winner coming out of Copenhagen? I think it definitely wasn't a victory for humankind.


So what if they had reached an agreement? Whether or not it would be strictly implemented is a completely different story. This is something that all Chinese understand very well.


So this article just wants to say that everything is China's fault?

海天四望/Gazing across the ocean:

This article tells us that China needs to move to become a stronger nation, it's time to change direction.

Journalist and Twitter user Rose Luqiu, in her post yesterday, ‘The post-Copenhagen era‘, writes:

虽然哥本哈根峰会已经结束了好几天,但是各国之间似乎又开始了blame game, 也就相互指摘,这让人的感觉反差很大,因为如果光看中国媒体的报导的话,这次的协议,虽然没有法律效率,但是却是最符合各国利益的唯一选择.


Even though the Copenhagen summit wrapped up a few days ago, different countries have now begun playing the blame game, criticizing each other, quite a contrast if all you've been reading have been Chinese media reports, [which have been reporting that] this agreement, albeit legally non-binding, was the option which best aligned with every country's national interest.

Though actually, it's not just England who has been pointing fingers at China; if you've been following English-language media reports since the climate change summit, you'll have seen that the Swedish Minister for the Environment also feels that China was the main factor which resulted in this legally non-binding agreement with no carbon emission reduction targets. English Climate Secretary Ed Miliband, writing in the British Guardian newspaper, flat-out used the word “hijack” to describe China, resulting in China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson to, without naming names, criticize him for stirring up trouble in relations between China and other developing nations. This has been seen as the first diplomatic squabble to come out of Copenhagen.



Then Obama squirmed a lot, admitting in interviews with American media, that while the accord left him disappointed, but the main point of it being its political significance. Of course, while he didn't come out and criticize China, nor did he forget to remind everyone that China didn't take part in the negotiation process.

A statement like that is the complete opposite to information we've been getting from domestic media, with official media saying that clearly because America was not being insincere, would China repeatedly refuse to engage in direct talks with Obama, that it was Obama who forced his way into developing countries’ own process for negotiation, and that in the end it was only through China's mediation that such an agreement was ever born in the first place.

环保人士mark LYNAS描述了另外一个场景,这位马尔代夫环境问题顾问列席了其中一次的谈判会场.他说,当时五六十个国家的领袖进行谈判,而中国只派出了一个外交部的官员,也因为这样,所有的领袖,必须等候这位官员不停的打电话向上级汇报请示,尔正是中国,不同意在协议里面列名,发达国家在2050年实现减排百分之八十的目标.他描述了奥巴马沮丧的样子,还有德国总统默克尔以及澳大利亚总理杜克文当时的激烈反应,质问为何不同意发达国家只不过是列明自己的目标.用这位环保人士的话来说,事后证明中国这样的做法是正确的,因为外界只会谴责美国,因为在协议里面,没有为自己列出应尽的责任,显得没有承担.

Environmentalist Mark Lynas describes another scenario, a negotiation session in which this environmental consultant to the Maldives listened in. He says that at the time, leaders from 50+ nations were engaged in negotiations, but China alone sent only a foreign ministry official to take part, and in doing so, forced all leaders to wait while this official kept making phone calls to his superiors to give feedback and ask for instructions. And it was China who would not consent to be listed in the agreement as one of the developed countries with a target to reduce emissions by 80% before 2050. He described Obama's forlorn appearance, and the harsh reaction from German President Merkel and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, demanding to know why developed countries shouldn't be allowed to publicize their own reduction targets. In the words of this environmentalist, what followed proved that China acted correctly, because everyone on the outside then aimed their condemnations at the USA; by not declaring its share of the responsibility, it was in effect shirking it.

Commenter on Luqiu's piece Guo Jun responded with:


This government of ours is used to the empty rhetoric of big government and to seeking to maximize interests, being unwilling to take on responsibility, corrupt habits formed over the years…it's a pity that we here on earth long ago forgot the meaning of the word ‘dignity’. Whatever your reasons are, distancing yourself from universal values in the end will only make your rivals and other countries despise you even more!


  • […] reading from the British press about the Chinese role in sabotaging the Copenhagen negotiations, via John Kennedy at the Global Voices […]

  • cf

    While I am used to see the Chinese government being insecure but the British/Euro reporters blaming China for the agreement reached at the Copenhagen is just shows how insecure the Europeans are.

    Nevermind the developing nation’s argument that it was the developed nations which are responsible for majority of the eco-disasters we have today (that is if you believe global warming at all). Any real Environmentalist who actually followed the history of these summits can tell you that US wasn’t exactly sincere in its negotiations either. In fact, most of the big first world nations all don’t want the extra burden which would certainly make them less competitive, they were just too politically correct to say it.

    Personally I feel it’s yellow peril all over again. The Brits are known for its past racism and its reporting on China manifests this:For the last two decades, when the US/European nation fights for its own interest and stalls the climate talks the Brit media didn’t behave like this. When developing nations try to look after themselves suddenly China is responsible for the tsunamis and destruction of the planet. China is but one nation in this world, since the Europeans love to view themselves as the more sophisticated leaders of the world, maybe the Europeans should ask themselves why can’t they lead this whole movement by restricting their own climates without forcing the developing nations to do the same first. Maybe the developing nations will follow their footsteps when they get wealthier.

  • fppb

    While our carbon emission per capita is very low and we are doing great effort to reduce it,we never say that we have done good enough,we still have a lot to do to protect our glob and ourselves. Someboday addict to peeping us and sometimes crashed our filight and fell into our courtyard,how can we have them do the srutiny at random.No debate any more,let’s work together to save the glob you destroyed.

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