It’s been hard to escape the news this week that talks at Copenhagen have been quickly turning into quarrels. Most recently, the US has argued that China’s promised emissions cuts should be internationally verified. At first, China responded with a blunt ‘thanks, but no thanks’, but has since said concessions would be made so long as her national sovereignty won’t be compromised.
As Tony Juniper wrote today, China dislikes being told what to do, not least when she feels the West is a) breathing down her neck and b) not taking enough of whichever burden it’s lumbering China herself with. And this hasn’t stopped at emissions cuts this week: on Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry told both the US and the EU where to go when they called for Liu Xiaobo’s release.
China’s policy of non-interference is, unsurprisingly, perceived by Western eyes as conveniently giving the government free reign to do what it wants, emitting as many greenhouse gases as it pleases and repressing whoever gets in its way. It would be wrong to deny non-interference comes with these added perks. But the West often lacks a cultural and historical understanding of why China really does what she does: the end of the nineteenth century and first 49 years of the twentieth were marred with imperialist invasions and internal power struggles that made the CCP only too fierce in preserving the country’s national sovereignty. This is also the reason why China and African nations get on like a house on fire.
But the truth is that heads are still being banged against brick walls. The West wants to monitor China, China doesn’t want to be monitored. Perhaps if there were more of an informed cultural awareness on both sides, these two would actually be able to get somewhere.
Juniper, however, is still hopeful for the final day of talks in the Danish capital: “perhaps some time tomorrow, we should have the answer to exactly what the Chinese want.” I think less Western interference will be quite high on the list. Whether or not China gets that is another matter.