Climate Summit in Copenhagen: China moves to centre stage of the climate negotiations

Jørgen Delman, Professor, PhD, China Studies, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, Copenhagen University

 

Together with the United States, China has moved to centre stage in the running up to the Climate Summit in Copenhagen 7-18 December 2009. To make the Summit a success, the two countries have started signalling positive commitment to formulation of quantitative targets and engage constructively in elaborating a reasonably ambitious, yet realistic framework for the implementation of a new global post-Kyoto regime that will have to take effect from 2012.

China’s leadership has already acknowledged that climate change may exacerbate an exceedingly unsustainable development path over the next decades if action is not taken to change its course dramatically. The challenges are formidable, yet the window of opportunity to take action is quite narrow.

For these reasons and due to international pressure, China’s position on climate change has been made gradually clearer as the climate negotiations have intensified. The climate change challenge is seen primarily as a developmental issue and the leadership in Beijing argues that China should follow a path that integrates sustainable development[1], poverty eradication and climate change in a holistic manner to find satisfactory solutions that will guarantee China’s right to pursue its own course of development (National Climate 2007; Implementation 2009).

China is still a developing country although our perceptions of the situation must adapt to the reality on the ground. As Lieberthal and Sandlow (2009, p. 34) explain: “China is most easily understood if one envisions a set of relatively developed islands with a cumula­tive population of over 400 million that are located in a sea of over 800 million people who live very much in developing country conditions”.

At the same time, China is becoming a global leader, a world power in the making. It has the fourth largest economy in the world and compared to most other developing countries it has in place already a fairly elaborate framework to deal with climate change.

Due to its global position and its sustained pro-active measures to deal with climate change, China is well prepared for the negotiations at the forthcoming Summit in Copenhagen.[2] The main purpose of this paper is to deconstruct the Chinese position and examine its background and which options the Chinese negotiators have at hand. The paper argues that by sorting out its ambitions, priorities and specific implementation measures with regard to mitigation of climate change at the national level, China has placed itself in an advantageous negotiation position vis-à-vis the other major players, especially the US which has been dragging its feet for long.

China and climate change

Indeed, China has been facing a rapid deterioration of its environment during the decades of reform and rapid economic expansion, and climate change has played a critical role in accelerating this development. First, over the last half century, the country has experienced devastating flooding, abnormal fluctuations of seasonal and regional precipitation, larger and longer drought periods, intensified hurricanes and storms, as well as having observed 20 consecutive warm winters from 1986-2005 (China’s National 2007). Furthermore, growing scientific evidence suggests that adverse impacts of climate change on China will be severe, thus challenging the continuation of the Chinese economic development model (IPCC 2007; National Climate 2007; World Bank 2008). Thirdly, energy and climate are intertwined and the challenges from China at the global as well as at regional and local levels have become glaring. Most significantly, if China’s fossil fuels based energy supply system prevails, the country needs to acquire a considerable amount of additional fossil fuel resources for a long time to come and this will pose a dilemma with regard to attaining the ambitious goal of doubling GDP from the 2000 level by 2010 and of quadrupling it by 2020. Fourthly, during the short period from 2000 to 2006, China was responsible for about 50% of the incremental demand in primary energy consumption and nearly 60% of the global incremental energy-related CO2 emissions due to the upsurge in energy demand (IEA 2007). These developments have increased the national and international pressure on China to engage responsibly in addressing the climate change challenge.

China’s own emission statistics (Table 1) show the nature of the problem that China is facing.

 

Table 1China’s emissions statistics (1994, 2004)[3]

Item

Year

1994

2004

Total GHG emissions

Mill. t. of CO2 eq.

4,060

6,100

 

Mill. t. net emissions

3,650

5,600

– of which:

Mill. t. of CO2

3,070

5,050

 

Mill. t. of  CO2 eq  of CH4

730

720

 

Mill. t. of  CO2 eq  of N2O

260

330

 

From 1994 to 2004, the annual average growth rate of China’s CHG emissions was around 4% and the share of CO2 in total CHG emissions increased from 76% to 83%. China surpassed the US as the largest emitter of green house gasses (GHG) in the world in 2007.[4] 

Furthermore, in 2006, non-OECD energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide exceeded OECD emissions by 14 percent. The IEA (US Energy Information Administration) projects that, in 2030, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from the non-OECD countries will exceed those from the OECD countries by 77 percent.  Coal’s share of world carbon dioxide emissions grew from 39 percent in 1990 to 42 percent in 2006 and it is projected to increase to 45 percent in 2030. Coal is the most carbon-intensive of the fossil fuels, and it is the fastest-growing carbon-emitting energy source in the reference case projection in the 2009 International Energy Outlook, reflecting its important role in the energy mix of non-OECD countries – especially, China and India. In 1990, China and India together accou
nted for 13 percent of world carbon dioxide emissions; in 2006 their combined share had risen to 25 percent, largely because of their strong economic growth and increasing use of coal to provide energy for that growth. In 2030, carbon dioxide emissions from China and India combined are projected to account for 34 percent of total world emissions, with China alone responsible for 29 percent of the world total.[5]

Because of these developments and scenarios, China has implemented a number of measures that have, after all, prevented emissions to go up more rapidly. For example, from 1990-2005 the energy intensity (i.e. energy consumption per mill. GDP at constant year 2000 RMB Yuan) went down from 268 to 143 tons of coal equivalent (tce), decreasing by an average of 4.1% annually. Between 1991-2005, an accumulated 800 mill. tce of energy consumption were saved through economic restructuring measures and from energy efficiency improvements, which saved 1.8 bill. t. of CO2 emissions. China has also been active in expanding forest coverage from 13.9% in 1980 to 18.2% in 2005. Together with urban greening efforts, this has resulted in an increase in forest CO2 absorption capacity amounting to about 3 bill. t. Other factors, such as China’s one-child policy, have also contributed significantly to reducing CO2 emissions (National Climate 2007).

All of this means that China has been able to deter some of the negative impact of an even higher potential increase in emissions resulting from its rapid economic growth. Yet, Table 1 clearly demonstrates that, in “climate” terms, the current development trend is unsustainable.

Whereas, China is now the major CO2 emitter in the world, Table 2 shows that compared with the US and Japan, China’s per capita emissions are still low.

Table 2: Comparison of key country variables (2007 data)[6]



 

Key variables

China

USA

Japan

Population (million)

1,320

302

128

Per capita GDP (US$) (PPP)

5,345

45,790

33,525

Energy use per unit of GDP (toe/ thousand US$)

0.26

0.17

0.12

Per capita CO2eq emissions (2003 data; tons)

3.2

19.5

9.8

 

The figures in Table 2 provide a strong basis for one of China’s key arguments in the international climate negotiations, viz. that the parties should not only take per capita and annual accumulated emissions into consideration when negotiating how to share responsibilities under a Post-Kyoto climate regime.

The difference in accumulated historical emissions is another key Chinese argument. Fig. 1 shows a comparison between current (2005) and accumulated historical emissions (1750-2005). The figures demonstrate that China has contributed historical emissions on a par with Germany, Russia and the UK, trailing far behind the US which has four times higher historical emissions than China.


 
  https://i0.wp.com/blogs.edf.org/climate411/wp-content/files/2007/03/annual_accum_ver.png


Fig. 1 – Accumulated current and historical emissions in comparison[7]

 

On the other hand, given the share of current emissions as well as the projections of future emissions, China is caught in a situation where it cannot only refer to its moderate historical emission record. It must be held up against current emissions that have been increasing dramatically in recent years. This has indeed prompted China not to hide behind the historical emissions and per capita arguments only and the leadership in Beijing has acknowledged the need to take a responsible stance in the climate negotiations.

China’s national climate change policy

The view of the leadership is that climate change must be addressed through comprehensive, strategic and integrated efforts, primarily through: control of greenhouse gas emissions, enhanced capacity to adapt to climate change, and promotion of policies and interventions based on reliable and up-to-date climate related science, technology, and R&D. These interventions are elaborated in detail in China’s National Climate Change Programme from 2007.

Furthermore, when confronted with dwindling fossil fuel resources at home and abroad, especially oil, China must address its energy security concerns simultaneously, e.g. through developing alternative energy resources at home, i.e. both renewable and nuclear energies. Effectively, China’s climate change policies are closely linked to and largely based on its energy policies and China has decided to optimize its energy mix by increasing energy efficiency and by exploiting low-carbon renewable energy sources. First of all, The Outline of the 11th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development projected that the per-unit GDP energy consumption by 2010 will have decreased by 20 percent compared to 2005 (White Paper on Energy 2007).[8] The Government has also announced that, by 2010, 10% of the primary energy supply will come from renewable energy sources and in 2020 it will be 15% (White Paper on Energy 2007) and a number of longer term goals have been announced for development of renewable energy sources. The goals with a few subsequent modifications are shown in Table 3.

Table 3Goals for development of renewable energy resources (2010 & 2020)[9]

 

Item

Goal 2010

Goal 2020

Wind power

Installed grid connected capacity

10 GW

30 GW[10]

 

– off shore capacity

 

1 GW

Hydropower

Installed capacity

190 GW

300GW

Solar power

Total capacity

300 MW

1.8 GW[11]

– Household PV application

150 MW

300 MW

– Grid connected PV in Gobi areas

20 MW

200 MW

– Solar thermal power stations

50 MW

200 MW

– Grid connected BIPV in cities

50 MW

1 GW

– Commercial PV based applications

30 MW

100 MW

Solar thermal

Heating

150 mill.  m2

300 mill. m2

Bio-energy

Biomass power: Total installed capacity

5.5 GW

30 GW

Biogas production

19 bill. m3

44 bill. m3

Biomass from agricultural and forestry waste (incl. bagasse): Installed capacity

4 GW

24 GW

Number of large-scale biogas projects on livestock farms

4,700

10,000

Number of biogas projects processing industrial organic effluents

1,600

6,000

Large and medium sized biogas plants:

4 bill. m3

14 bill. m3

MSW: Installed capacity

500 MW

3 GW

Solid waste fuel resources

1 mill. T.

50 mill. T

Consumption of non-grain based bio-ethanol

2 mill. T. (additional)

10 mill. T.

Consumption of bio-diesel

200.000 T.

2 mill. T.

Use of renewable energy in rural areas

Proportion of clean energy households

30?

>70?

Number of pilot green energy counties

50

500

Number of households using biogas

40 mill.

80 mill.

Use of solar energy for water heating

50 mill. m2

100 mill. m2

Other renewable energy

Consumption of geothermal energy

 

4 Mtce

12 Mtce

Tidal energy production

100 MW

 

Recently, Chinese President Hu Jintao announced that China would cut its carbon intensity by a notable margin between 2005 and 2020 (Hu 2009). Combined with the projected 20% energy efficiency gain, Chinese experts have projected that China could reduce carbon emissions with 4.5 billion tons between 2005 and 2020 (Xinhua online, 23.09.2009).

By focusing on the reduction of carbon intensity rather than just energy intensity, China will have to concentrate even more on increasing the portion of renewable and nuclear energy in the energy mix, thus also addressing overriding concerns about the country’s future energy security.[12] At the same time, this will force China to measure emissions accurately which will pave the way for more carbon credits trade and thus, possibly, more indigenous technology development paired with more technology transfer from abroad and international R&D collaboration to develop new technologies (Delman &
amp; Chen 2007). However, a carbon intensity target would not necessarily put a cap on future CO2 emissions and China has been criticized for that.

In addition to formulating policies, plans and strategies in support of a more sustainable and climate friendly development, China has also put in place a new legal and regulatory framework (Delman & Chen 2008; China’s National 2007) as well as an institutional infrastructure under a National Coordination Committee for Climate Change headed by Premier Wen Jiabao. The Committee is based in and serviced by the NDRC and it is supposed to guide and coordinate the variety of interventions already approved by the leadership (China’s National 2007). Currently, provincial climate change plans are also being rolled out with support from the UN and other donors (???? 2009). In August 2009, China’s National People’s Congress addressed the climate change issues for the first time in its history at a meeting of its Standing Committee as it reviewed a draft resolution which will pave the way for relevant subsequent environmental legislation (China Daily 25.8.2009; Xie 2009). 

Clearly China has options at hand to contribute constructively to the ongoing climate negotiations, but the window of opportunity is not open for long. A recent projection by an authoritative national research team looked at three different scenarios for future CO2 emissions based on energy consumption only: 1) Business as usual (BAU); 2) low carbon scenario (LC); and 3) enhanced low carbon scenario (ELC). Based on different assumptions, the scenarios would lead to the three CO2 emission trajectories outlined in Table 4.

Table 43 emission scenarios 2000-2050

based on energy consumption only

 (mill. t. CO2)[13]

 

Year

BAU

LC

ELC

2000

867

867

867

2005

1409

1409

1409

2010

2134

1943

1943

2020

2779

2262

2194

2030

3179

2345

2228

2040

3525

2398

2014

2050

3465

2406

1395

 

The ELC shows that China’s emissions from energy consumption could reach a peak level in 2030 and then start declining significantly to under the 2005-level in 2050. The authors of the scenarios admit that the conditions to be met to achieve this would be a tall order, but – as indicated in the table – the low carbon (LC) scenario would still allow China to stabilize its CO2 emissions between 2020 and 2030. This would of course require investments in new technology, restructuring of the energy system, and a transformation of the energy consumption pattern within the transportation sector. Yet, the authors argue that this is perfectly possible and that the costs will be far from prohibitive (Jiang et al. 2009).

Finally, it should be noted that China has been an increasingly active participant and beneficiary of the Kyoto Protocol regime. It signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. It played an active role in negotiating the Kyoto Protocol and was one of the earliest signatories to the Protocol in 1998. It signed the Treaty in 2002 as a non-Annex 1 country, i.e without having to fulfil legally binding targets to limit its emissions (Buijs 2009). China has actively utilized the technology transfer mechanism within the UNFCCC framework. Up to July 2008, China had 244 Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects successfully registered with the UN and they are expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 113 mill. tons (White Paper on climate 2008). As shown in Fig. 2, China is host to about 35% of all registered CDM projects.

Figure 2 – CDM global registered projects[14]

http://cdm.unfccc.int/Statistics/Registration/RegisteredProjActivityChart?party=HostParties&activity=NumberOfProjects&cacheok=True

In sum, China has recognized the environmental constraints on its future development and its leadership has decided to promote more sustainable economic growth through a “green transformation” (????)[15] in which energy saving and use of cleaner energy sources will be key components in conjunction with other specific measures to address the climate change challenge. Recognizing the global nature of the climate change challenge, the leadership has also decided to be constructive about finding international solutions based on its national efforts.

Despite of all of this, China stopped short of committing itself to specific goals for reduction of CO2 emissions until 26.11.2009 (see below). This was clearly done to allow China a freer hand in the upcoming negotiations, but it has been evident that China has long been ready to chip in with substantive national commitments based on its current plans and programs provided that the US did the same. As stated in the National Climate Change Programme: “In order to actively fulfill its international commitments under the UFCCCC, China will strive to control the greenhouse gas emissions, enhance its capacity to adapt to climate change and promote harmonious development between economy, population, resources and the environment” (China’s National 2007, p. 23).

The comprehensive set of national policies, framework and guidelines form the basis for China’s position in the international climate negotiations. They underpin the seriousness of China’s participation and possible commitments. With these in hand, China’s leadership is able to confront the developed countries self-confidently with the accusation that
they have been talking a lot but not doing much.[16]

China and COP15

In the lead up to the COP15 climate summit in Copenhagen in December, the eyes of the world have increasingly been focusing on the US and China as the key players. Between the two biggest emitters of GHGs, the United States have been seen as the laggard due to President Obama’s problems with rallying support in Congress for his ambitious climate mitigation plans, while China has increasingly won recognition as a constructive and responsible player because of all its efforts to confront its problems up front.

There now seems to be an almost uniform perception that if the two giants can agree on some sort of common approach, then that approach will largely define the outcome of the Summit. Certainly, the leaderships in the two countries make no secret of their view that concessions by the other party would help the negotiation process tremendously. However, as discussed above, while the two countries are the largest global CO2 emitters, the glaring differences in per capita and accumulated historical emissions make them stand wide apart from the outset, which is clearly to China’s advantage. 

Whereas the likelihood of reaching a legally binding agreement at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December has vanished[17], it still seems possible to reach a substantial political agreement of strategic importance. When President Obama talked to China’s President Hu Jintao duing his visit in November, the two sides were still non-committal. Nonetheless, they agreed “that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time” and “that a vigorous response is necessary and that international cooperation is indispensable in responding to this challenge”. They were “convinced of the need to address climate change in a manner that respects the priority of economic and social development in developing countries and are equally convinced that transitioning to a low-carbon economy is an opportunity to promote continued economic growth and sustainable development in all countries”. Regarding the upcoming Copenhagen Summit, the two Presidents noted that “both sides agree on the importance of actively furthering the full, effective and sustained implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in accordance with the Bali Action Plan. The United States and China, consistent with their national circumstances, resolve to take significant mitigation actions and recognize the important role that their countries play in promoting a sustainable outcome that will strengthen the world’s ability to combat climate change. The two sides resolve to stand behind these commitments”.[18]

While negotiation tactics may have accounted for the lack of specific commitments, the two countries moved swiftly afterwards. On 25.11., President Obama announced that he will travel to attend the Climate Summit in Copenhagen (albeit not when the other Heads of State are there) and that he will present an offer to cut US greenhouse gas emissions by 17% in relation to 2005 figures by 2020 (The Guardian 25.11.2009). The Chinese government immediately followed up on 26.11. with an announcement that Premier Wen Jiabao will attend the Summit and that China would cut carbon emissions relative to economic growth by 40% to 45% by 2020 as compared with 2005 levels. In other words, China is focusing on reducing carbon intensity, as discussed above, and not on putting a cap on emissions like the US.

Yet, this will be a binding goal that will be incorporated into China’s mid- and long-term national social and economic development plans, and new measures will be formulated to audit, monitor and assess its implementation. In connection with the announcement, a representative of the State Council noted that this is a voluntary action taken by the Chinese government based on its own national conditions and that it should be seen as a major contribution to the global efforts to tackle climate change.[19]

Although many will question whether the new commitments from US and China are ambitious enough, they are important signifiers that the climate negotiations are on track towards an agreement in Copenhagen, if not a legal then a political one, and that it will most likely be followed by a binding agreement in 2010.

Whereas the US administration has struggled with internal challenges before being able to make this initial and rather moderate offer, China has been in a much more advantageous position, since it had already largely made decisions about how to deal with climate change at the national level. The swift response to President Obama’s announcement showed that the Chinese government had just been waiting for the US to play its cards first. China’s card had been ready for long.

The climate negotiations have presented China with a golden opportunity to demonstrate that its leadership is able to act as a truly responsible and forceful player in critical international negotiations. With its latest announcements, China put itself in a position where it may emerge triumphantly at the end of the negotiations as the broker of an agreement that will still be difficult to reach.

China’s position on international climate negotiations

To understand the nature of the game China is playing, it would be important to assess China’s options in isolation from what other major players do.

As a major developing country and a potential but not an actual leader of the G-77, it has been important for China to articulate its position in relation to the three major framework is­sues that developing countries in general raise with the advanced developed countries on climate change obligations. They are:

§          As already discussed above, all countries should be held responsible for their accumulated historical emissions, given that greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere over many decades.

§          Metrics should not focus on total national emissions while neglecting to account for per capita emissions in densely-populated countries.

§          Developed countries have already gone through high-emissions stages of development, while developing countries still have a long way to go to reach the same level of development.

The three principles accentuate the need for developed countries to shoulder the major burden for global warming and its mitigation and the developing countries are demanding that the developed countries should recognize the principles. Otherwise, there will be no agreement. The three principles also reflect that developing countries should be allowed increases in greenhouse gas emissions (cf. projections for China in Table 4) while industrialized countries assume cap and reduction obligations (Lieberthal & Sandlow 2009;Xie 2009).

In the Chinese analysis, the major rift in the climate negotiations is between developed and developing countries with respect to differentiated responsibilities for reduction of emissions, the responsibility for financing interventions and issues relating to technology transfer (Xie 2009). Until now, China has placed itself in that camp, but it does not imply that China cannot move into an in-between position as a broker of an eventual agreement. As an example, China did not commit explicitly to the position of the developing countries at the recent 4th Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.  The final “Declaration” simply stated that “We underline in particular African countries’ urgent need for stronger capacity to adapt to climate change and support their legitimate right in combating climate change”.[20]

The more detailed Action Plan that was agreed during the Summit was equally non-committing in
relation to the climate negotiations. The measures proposed were primarily of a practical nature with a focus on bilateral exchange and bilateral assistance from China in different fields: human resource development, environmental surveillance, small-sized well, biogas, solar energy and hydro-power projects. The two sides also proposed the establishment of a China-Africa partnership in addressing climate change and the holding of senior officials’ consultations on a non-regular basis. Whereas such a partnership may develop into a closer political alliance in the future, it does not appear to be the ambition now.[21]

Against the backdrop of China’s continuing preference to be a recognized as a developing country, albeit not on a par with the poorest of those, the official position regarding the climate negotiations focuses on the points below.

Climate change must be addressed within a framework of sustainable development; China is not willing to agree to commitments that will slow its economic development

China will not accept climate change mitigation interventions that threaten economic growth and social stability. Climate change is a result of development and it must be solved as part of development (White Paper on climate 2008; Implementation 2009).[22]

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol should remain the legal basis for the international community to address climate change; as an action to establish a broader agreement capable of expanding or replacing the Kyoto Protocol, the Bali Roadmap agreed in December 2007 should guide the negotiations

China has insisted continuously on the need to follow the Kyoto Protocol in the climate negotiations (Implementation 2009) while some Western governments have questioned its continued validity. Following the Bali Road Map elaborated in 2007[23], the Chinese government issued its own position paper for the implementation of the Bali Road Map in May 2009 which outlines China’s official negotiation position in detail based on the Kyoto Protocol principles (Implementation 2009). One of the top Chinese negotiators, Su Wei, reiterated the views expressed as late as early November this year when he said: “China’s position is quite clear: the Kyoto Protocol must be adhered to, since it best illustrates the principal of ‘common but differentiated’ responsibilities.” Su also emphasized that “this view is strongly supported by the Group of 77 and other developing countries.” Effectively, this means that the developed countries must clarify their reduction targets whereas the developing countries do not necessarily have to do so. Su pointed out that there are two elements in this: One is to set the mid-term emission reduction targets for developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol. That is, developed countries as a whole should commit to making 25-40 percent cuts below 1990 levels by 2020.[24] The second element is to make substantial arrangements for the implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in accordance with the Bali Roadmap (Xinhua News, 4.11.2009).

The basic principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ among developing and developed countries should be maintained; countries with developed economies should continue to take the lead in emissions reduction.

China recognizes that emissions must be reduced by half in 2050 in order to maintain the global temperature increase below 2O0 C. However, §10 of the Kyoto Protocol which concerns  “common but shared responsibilities” should be the basis and this is exactly where the issue of per capita and historically accumulated CO2 emissions are factored in (Buijs 2009). Furthermore, China has argued that the developed countries must reduce their GHG emissions by at least 40% below their 1990-level by 2020 (Implementation 2009). China will also insist that the developed countries commit themselves to the goals agreed, which has not been the case under the current Kyoto framework (Buijs 2009).

Furthermore, the developed countries must contribute 0.5-1% of their annual GNP to finance an agreement, in addition to existing official development assistance (Buijs 2009).

Developing countries should endeavor to adapt to the climate challenge and cut greenhouse gas emissions proportionately in relation to the commitments of the developed countries.

The basic principle here is that the developing countries should not be committed by binding commitments or targets. They should rather implement their own Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) initiated by themselves. When China announced its specific goal for reduction of carbon intensity on 26.11.2009 (see above), it was presented as a voluntary action by the Chinese government for this reason and not as a potentially binding goal.

Furthermore, developed countries will have to provide technology, financing and capacity building support to developing countries under this principle. China has already benefited considerably from these arrangements under the CDM mechanism discussed earlier. 

Developing countries, including China, consider technology transfer one of the major pillars of a future agreement. However, negotiations are difficult, as developed and developing countries tend to be in conflict, especially over treatment of intellectual property rights (IPRs), financing mechanisms and the role of public funding. At a meeting in the beginning of November this year, the G20 countries failed to find common ground on this issue and delayed further discussions until the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December (Xinhua News 08.11.2009).

The Chinese leadership has stressed time and again its dissatisfaction with the lack of progress on this matter. In late 2008, the Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), Zhang Ping, outlined some key proposals on how to strengthen technology cooperation and promote technology transfer under a new climate change agreement.

First, Mr. Zhang proposed to set up specialized organizations under the COP to be made responsible for the planning, coordination, organization, monitoring and evaluation of technology development and transfer. Each signatory should also designate its national authority and contact agency for technology development and transfer to cooperate with international dimensions.

Secondly, Mr. Zhang proposed to establish a specialized financial mechanism – a “Technology Development and Transfer Fund” – for developed countries to provide sufficient, predictable and stable financial support for technology development for the benefit of and technology transfer to developing countries to combat climate change in the context of sustainable development. The Fund should also be able to support capacity-building for the application of new technologies by developing countries.

Thirdly, Mr. Zhang proposed to establish a review and evaluation mechanism to ensure effective sustainable implementation of technology development and transfer. The mechanism should guarantee that the Parties under the Convention regularly review and evaluate the progress on technology development and transfer, sum up the successful experiences, identify existing problems and improve working methods to ensure that substantial effective progress is made.

Zhang Ping finally proposed that in terms of international cooperation on technology development and transfer, full play shall be given to the leading roles of governments and that efforts must be made by the various parties to overcome barriers constraining technology development and transfer. However, he also recognized the role of markets and the private sector in mobilizing and attracting more resources for the development and transfer of climate-friendly technologies through policy guides, incentives and leve
rages to allow developing countries access to applicable and affordable technologies (Zhang 2008).

Developed countries argue that technology transfer normally occurs through commercial transactions and that the role of governments is to create business and regulatory environments that enable such commercial activities. For them, IPR protection is the core of enabling environments for technology transfer. However, with China as a lead protagonist, developing countries emphasize the role of international assistance by the developed countries. Even if China and other developing countries agree on the critical and central role of the private sector, they insist that large-scale public funding from developed countries is essential to ensure technology transfer. In addition, they believe that protection of IPRs makes technologies less accessible and affordable and request special treatments such as compulsory licensing. Although much time has been spent already on these negotiations, they still tend to be rather conceptual and abstract without much concrete evidence for one or the other position. Essentially, this discussion relates to whether developing countries are able to catch up with developed countries through technology acquisition and use of their own resources so that that they can effectively address climate change, or whether there is a need to help those countries in adapting to climate change (Takahiro 2009).

China is willing to cut its CO2 emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by a “notable margin” by 2020 from the 2005 level

This was the official Chinese position until 26.11.2009 when the government announced its 40-45% carbon intensity reduction goal (see above).

China will strengthen its handling of mitigation measures

China continues to focus on the need to become better to implement the many different mitigation measures that have been outlined. Climate change will be gradually mainstreamed in national plans and the capacity of all the administrative systems at all levels that have to implement them or monitor progress will be enhanced. In many of these areas, China will be looking for international collaboration and assistance (Xie 2009; Delman & Yong 2008).

How far is China willing to go?

China has played the climate negotiations both tough and smart until now. It is in a position where it can move from going it alone by implementing its own national policies which are already in place and meant to seriously confront unpleasant realities. At the same time, China has shown great willingness to take on reasonable responsibilities and share them with other major emitters, depending, however, on the specific requirements associated with such responsibilities.

Given that China is a non-Annex 1 country, it is placed in a unique and convenient position in the slipstream behind the US as an emerging world power with a considerable battery of options to suit its national needs. If the Chinese leadership plays its cards diligently, it will be able to come out of the climate negotiations as a winner, almost no matter what will be the end result.

Therefore, it is important for the developed countries to engage China in such a way that its responsibilities as the largest emitter in the world are factored into an agreement in terms of more specific obligations, if not targets with a cap. China would be able to handle such obligations, but it needs persuasion. The developed countries must recognize that China is in need of relevant technology and capacity building and that untiring effort is called for to convince China to become a more responsible partner although it is a developing country. A productive partnership is called for to ensure China’s engagement in all aspects of the prospective agreement.

Due to its sheer size and the magnitude of its economic might, China is not necessarily seen as the most reliable ally by all developing countries. Therefore, China would probably be quite comfortable with a place in the middle where it can be the intermediary between the two sides. There is a price tag on this which the negotiators must be able to fix. There can be no ‘free meals’.

©

Professor Jørgen Delman, PhD

China Studies, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies

Copenhagen University

Leifsgade 33

2300 Copenhagen S.

Denmark

E-mail: jorgen.delman@hum.ku.dk

Phone direct: +45 3532 8827

Mobile: +45 3050 7079

Web site: http://tors.ku.dk

 

 

Appendix 1 – Key Chinese policy documents on climate change

Name of document

Organization responsible

Date

Source

 

The People’s Republic of China Initial National Communication on

Climate Change

 

October 2004

http://www.ccchina.gov.cn/file/en_source/da/da2004110901.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

China’s National Climate Change

Programme

National Development and Reform Commission

June 2007

http://en.ndrc.gov.cn/newsrelease/P020070604561191006823.pdf

 

Chinese version:

????????????

 

???????

 

2007?6?

 

http://www.sdpc.gov.cn/xwfb/t20070604_139486.htm   

 

White paper: China’s policies and actions on climate change

State Council Information Office

10.2008

http://www.china.org.cn/government/news/2008-10/29/content_16681689.htm

 

Chinese version:

??????????????

 

????????

 

10.2008

 

http://www.china.com.cn/policy/qhbh/node_7055577.htm

 

 

 

China’s Views On Enabling the Full, Effective and Sustained

Implementation of the Convention Through Long-term Cooperative Action Now, Up to and Beyond 2012

Report to ICFC

28.09.2008

http://unfccc.int/files/kyoto_protocol/application/pdf/china_bap_280908.pdf

 

Implementation of the Bali roadmap-China’s Position on the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

NDRC

20.05.2009

http://www.china-un.ch/eng/bjzl/t564324.htm

 

Chinese version:

??????????????????

 

 

http://www.china-un.ch/chn/bjzl/t564315.htm

 

 

               

References

 

Buijs, B., 2009. China, Copenhagen and Beyond – The Global Necessity of a Sustainable Energy Future for

China. Clingendael Energy Paper. The Hague: Clingendael International Energy Pmerogram

Borger, J., and J. Watts, 2009. China Launches green power revolution to catch up on West. The Guardian, 10.6.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/09/china-green-energy-solar-wind,

accessed 10.6.2009

China’s National 2007 (see appendix 1).

Delman, J. & C. Yong, 2008. Nordic Collaboration with China in Energy Research and Development, Copenhagen: NIAS Nordic Institute of Asian Studies.

(http://www.nias.ku.dk/news/documents/China_in_energy_RD_nos_08.pdf, accessed

23.11.2009)

Hu, Jintao, 2009 (23.09). Chinese President Hu Jintao’s speech at the UN climate change summit.

(http://dk.china-embassy.org/eng/News/t605967.htm, accessed 23.11.2009)

IEA, 2007. World Energy Outlook 2007. OECD/International Energy Agency

IPCC, 2007. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

??? (Jiang, Kejuan)??????????, 2009. ??2050????????????. ????,

2009 ???? (

Implementation 2009 (see Appendix 1).

Lieberthal, K. & D. Sandalow, 2009. Overcoming Obstacles to U.S.-China Cooperation on Climate Change.  John L. Thornton China Center Monograph Series, No. 1 (January). Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institution (http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/rc/reports/2009/01_climate_change_lieberthal_sandalow/01_climate_change_lieberthal_sandalow.pdf, accessed 27.11.2009)

Medium and Long-Term Development Plan for Renewable Energy in China, 2007. (Abbreviated Version). Beijing: NDRC, http://www.frankhaugwitz.info/doks/policy/2007_09_04_China_RE_Medium_Long_Term_RE_Development_Plan.pdf, accessed 28.4.2008  (Chinese version: ????????????,

  http://www.china.com.cn/policy/txt/2007-09/04/content_9252708.htm)

Program of Action for Sustainable Development in China in the Early 21st Century, 2007, Beijing: NDRC, 5 Feb. http://en.ndrc.gov.cn/newsrelease/t20070205_115702.htm, accessed 20.10.2008.

Takahiro, Ueno, 2009. Technology Transfer to China to Address Climate Change Mitigation. U.S. Global Leadership: An Initiative of the Climate Policy Program at RFF. Issue Brief, no. 09-09 (August)

White Paper on climate 2008 (see Appendix 1).

White Paper White paper on energy: China’s Energy Conditions and Policies, 2007. Information Office of the State Council. http://www.china.org.cn/english/environment/236955.htm (accessed 23.11.2009)

Xie, Zhenhua, 2009. 2009?8?24?????????????????????????. http://www.fnrrc.com/chinese/Shownews.asp?ID=845 (accessed 23.11.2009)

Zhang, Ping, 2008. Speech at the Beijing High-level Conference on Climate Change: Technology Development and Technology Transfer. 7 November, Beijing.

http://www.ccchina.gov.cn/WebSite/CCChina/UpFile/File366.pdf (accessed 23.11.2009)

Zhao, Huanxin, 2009  Hu reiterates China’s climate stance. China Daily, 11.11., (http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-11/15/content_8973571.htm, accessed 23.11.2009) 

?????????????????????????, China Climate Change Info-Net, 01.15.2009

(http://www.ccchina.gov.cn/cn/NewsInfo.asp?NewsId=16148, accessed 23.11.2009)

 

 

 

Notes


[1] The concept of “sustainable development” was incorporated as an official policy priority already in connection with the publication of China’s “Agenda 21” (Chapter 13, Section D, http://www.acca21.org.cn/indexe6.htmlcf, accessed 8.6.2009). Thanks are due to Nis Høyrup Christensen for pointing to this fact. New policy documents follow up on this regularly, most recently “Program of Action for Sustainable Development in China in the Early 21st Century” (Program 2007).

[2] Web site: http://en.cop15.dk/.

[3] Source: China’s National 2007.

[4]  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/datablog/2009/oct/22/carbon-emissions-data-country-world#data, accessed 26.11.2009.

[5]  EIA 2009. International Energy Outlook, Chapter 8: Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions (Release date 27.05.2009), http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/emissions.html, accessed 26.11.2009.

[6] The 2008 World Development Indicators, available on-line at:

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/DATASTATISTICS/ 0,,contentMDK:20399244~menuPK:1504474~pagePK:64133150~piPK:64133175~theSitePK:239419,00.html#ranking;

EarthTrends Environmental Information, WRI, available on-line at: http://earthtrends.wri.org/text/climate-atmosphere/variable-666.html  

[7] Bill Chameides, blog post 21.03.2007. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), (http://blogs.edf.org/climate411/2007/03/21/us_emissions, accessed 27.11.2009) 

[8] The document also noted that the total amount of major pollutants discharged would be reduced by 10 percent by 2010 (White Paper on Energy 2007); see also the comparison of energy use per unit of GDP (toe/ thousand US$) between China, the US and Japan. Japan is doubly as efficient as China which indicates that China has a considerable potential for energy saving though energy efficiency measures. 

[9] Delman, J. & C. Yong, 2008; see also Medium 2007.

[10] Now tentatively revised to 150 GW (????????????, Reuters, 26.5.2009, http://cn.reuters.com/article/CNAnalysesNews/idCNChina-4593720090526?sp=true, accessed 26.5.2009); AFP says 100 GW (“China Plans 440 bln dlrs stimulus for green energy”. AFP, 25.5.2009,  http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i7wWkoCABy_Y7poh8ym0TI7CjJjA, accessed 26.5.2009).

[11] Now tentatively revised to between 9 and 20 GW (Borger & Watts 2009; Reuters, op.cit.)

[12]The White Paper on Energy (2007) argues that continuing self-sufficiency is an overriding energy policy goal, yet, it acknowledges soberly that China will continue to depend on imported oil, even from the world’s trouble spots. It also recognizes that China must continue to engage in international dialogue and cooperation to secure its energy supplies. National and international efforts must combine to protect not only China’s, but also the world’s energy security. China’s position on energy presents opportunities for intensification of global energy trade, technology transfer, and cross-border investments, and China’s global energy interests, should be seen as a basis for integrating China into the global energy market, argues the White Paper (White Paper 2007).

[13] Source:Jiang et al. 2009.

[14] Source: http://cdm.unfccc.int/Statistics/Registration/NumOfRegisteredProjByHostPartiesPieChart.html,

  Accessed 26.11.2009. 

[15]?????????????. ?????, 2009?05?25, http://news.xinhuanet.com/fortune/2009-05/25/content_11429473.htm, accessed 26.5.2009; ????????????, Reuters, 26.5.2009, http://cn.reuters.com/article/CNAnalysesNews/idCNChina-4593720090526?sp=true, accessed 26.5.2009.

[16] Xie Zhenhua, Vice Chairman of the NDRC, China Daily, 25.8.2009

(http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-08/25/content_8611110.htm, accessed 26.11.2009).

[17] Voice of America (on-line), 15.11.2009, http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/a-13-2009-11-15-voa3-70423372.html, accesed 26.11.2009.

[18] Quotations from “U.S.-China Joint Statement, Beijing 17.11.2009”. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary,

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/us-china-joint-statement, accessed 26.11.2009.

[19] Xinhua News agency, 26.11.2009, http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-11/26/content_12544181.htm, accessed 26.11.2009.

[20] Declaration of Sharm El Sheikh of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, 12.11.2009, http://www.focac.org/eng/zxxx/t626388.htm, accessed 26.11.2009.

[21] Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Sharm El Sheikh Action Plan (2010-2012), 2009/11/12, http://www.focac.org/eng/dsjbzjhy/hywj/t626387.htm, accessed 26.11.2009.

[22] Cf. note 1.

[23] http://unfccc.int/meetings/cop_13/items/4049.php, accessed 26.11.2009.

[24]A more amenable position than the 40% stipulated in China’s Bali Road Map Implementation document (Implementation 2009).

 


Wild monks should raise concern in Cambodia by Anya Palm

In Cambodia, on TuesdayOct 26, a nun was murdered. She had grabbed the wrong bowl to feed the pigswith and then an angry man beat her to death with a stick for her mistake. Sameday, in an unrelated case, a young student became the center of a drunkenbrawl. Two men got so upset with the student that they beat him with a hammerand an iron bar. 

The only thing those twoincidents have in common – apart from a deadly outcome for the victim – is thatthe perpetrator was a Buddhist monk.

The cases do not standalone. There are frequently reports of Cambodian monks getting into violentfights, watching porn, drinking, gambling, raping and doing pretty much exactlyas they damn well please.

And while a collective consensusof condemning the wild monks arises – it is not difficult to agree thatmurdering someone is wrong – Cambodian authorities either fail to acknowledgeor simply ignore the greater problem.

There are procedures forbreaking the law and those can be followed. (That they tend to be followedsomewhat creatively in the super corrupt Kingdom is another issue.) In anycase, the crime will be dealt with and does not constitute the core of theproblem.

The orange garments do.

Those are symbols of peaceand morality that the Cambodian people need and the role of the bearer in theCambodian society is of crucial importance.

90 percent of the peopleidentify themselves as Buddhist and go to the pagoda on a regular basis. Alarge part of the population is not educated and looks to the monks for wisdomand answers. Most people are raised amidst corruption, violence and poverty;yet, those are the same people that are struggling to rebuild a nationshattered by genocide, occupation, coup and political instability.

There are three corevalues that constitute the pillars of Cambodian society: King, Nation andReligion. While the retired King is largely still who Cambodians refer to whenthey say King, he is in his own way contributing to society by doing what he feelsis best for his country. There are issues, that can certainly be discussed andlooked upon critically, but in the greater picture, King Sihanouk fights forhis Kingdom. As mentioned, the people themselves have taken it upon them torestore the Nation and thus, it lays with the monks the rebuild the Religion.

This is the consequencesof monks running wild: They obstruct the rebuilding of a country that is verymuch only beginning to rise again. They risk that the Cambodian people losefaith in them as role models and if that happens, one ground pillar is missing.

And having identifiedthat, there is yet another problem: What can be done?

This is a difficultquestion. None of the politicians seem to not take up the discussion. If it wasonly because they recognized that politics and religion are two separatethings, they would be excused, but seeing as the religious system is indeedvery politicized in Cambodia, they might for once use it for the good. Alas.None of the chief monks and religious leaders has taken any steps worthmentioning either and the intellectuals and public debaters are a largelypowerless group.

A young monk from the WatLanka pagoda in the capital proposed his idea for a solution in a chat withfriends: Longer training period and defrocking at first offense. His idea -good or bad – will not be heard, though. It is not his place to propose suchthings.

But…maybe it should be?

 

 

 


Challenges to peace in East Asia by Jordi Urgell

This article attempts to contribute to the discussion about the emerging concept of ‘East Asian Peace’, which in its narrower formulation refers to a dramatic decline in the number of battle deaths from 1979 onwards. By using the data on armed conflicts and peace processes from the School for a Culture of Peace at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the following article raises some academic questions that need further research.

Although there is a clear decline in warfare and battle-related deaths in East Asia since 1979, there are some issues in the discussion around the concept of East Asian Peace that need further research. While the number of active armed conflicts is already very high, especially in Southeast Asia , the several cases of latent, low-intensity or non-resolved conflict in East Asia increase the risk of warfare in the region. Moreover, the protracted character of many of the ongoing armed conflicts in the region – their duration is significantly higher than the world average – seems to illustrate the complexity of the disputes in East Asia. Finally, there are two more issues that need to be explained. First, is the reduction of battle deaths since 1979 attributable to economic, political or geostrategic systemic change or is it due to the fact that the armed groups no longer have the military capacity to pose a threat to the national security of the East Asian states? Second, why have there been so few peace agreements during the period of the ‘East Asian Peace’?

The many active and potential armed conflicts

While Northeast Asia has not had any major wars since the 80s, Southeast Asia continues to be one of the regions in the world with the highest number of armed conflicts – understood, according to the School for a Culture of Peace, to be any confrontation involving regular or irregular armed forces in which the continued and organised use of violence causes at least 100 battle-related deaths in the course of a year and has a serious impact on the human security of the population[SP1] . According to the School for a Culture of Peace data, there are currently five active armed conflicts in the region: one in southern Thailand, one in Burma and three in the Philippines – the Government against the New People’s Army (NPA), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Abu Sayyaf Group. If, as suggested by some authors, North East India is considered a part of Southeast Asia – for geographic, historical, and demographic reasons – then the number of active armed conflicts increases to seven due to the disputes in the states of Assam and Manipur. Then Southeast Asia alone would have 25% of all active armed conflicts in the world, and surpass regions like South Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan (northeast and Baluchistan) and India (Kashmir and the communist insurgents of the CPI-M); the Great Lakes and Central Africa: DR Congo, Central African Republic, Chad and Uganda; the Horn of Africa: Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan (Darfur and South); the Middle East and North Africa: Algeria, Iraq, Yemen, Israel/Palestine; Europe: Turkey and the Russian regions of Chechnya and Ingushetia; Latin America: Colombia; and West Africa: Nigeria.

In addition to the active wars, there are many other cases of latent or unresolved conflicts. In the last decades there has been a significant number of relatively sudden outbreaks of violence, such as those in Kalimantan in 1997, Maluku and Sulawesi in 2000 and 2001, Southern Thailand in 2004, Timor-Leste in 2006, Tibet in 2008 and Xinjiang in 2009. In other cases, the potential for conflict stems from long-standing international disputes, such as between China and Taiwan, North and South Korea and, to a lesser extent, the claimants to the Spratly Islands. There is also the territorial disagreement between Thailand and Cambodia over the access to the temple of Preah Vihear. Other non-resolved, long standing, internal disputes are the self-determination conflict in West Papua (Indonesia), the repression of the Hmong minorities in Laos because of their support to the US in the so-called Secret War in Laos during the Vietnam War. Even in those cases that were settled through a peace or ceasefire agreement – with the Moro National Liberation Front in the Philippines in 1996, the Gerakan Aceh Merdeka in Aceh in 2005 and with several armed groups in Burma and Northeast India during the 1990s – new episodes of violence have often occurred and the risk of renewed conflict has not completely disappeared. Finally, there are several countries whose political stability is threatened by massive demonstrations (Thailand), frequent rumours about military coups d’état (the Philippines) or the holding of elections boycotted by the internal opposition and the international community (Burma).

Long conflicts, short peace

According to the data from the School of Peace Culture[LH2] [i], the average duration of the active armed conflicts in East Asia (31 years) is significantly higher than the average duration of the armed conflicts in the rest of the world (17 years). Several factors could explain this. Firstly, most of the conflicts in the region revolve around identity and self-determination issues, and are therefore more difficult to resolve than power- or resource-based conflicts. Secondly, many of the ongoing conflicts in Southeast Asia are closely related to the formation of the current states during the decolonization process. Some minorities, like the Acehnese and the Papuans in Indonesia, the Moros in the Philippines, the Karen in Burma or the Nagas in Northeast India, have strongly opposed their inclusion in the newly independent countries claiming illegal transfers of sovereignty, fears of repression or internal colonialism. Thirdly, the fact that many countries in East Asia were ruled by authoritarian regimes during most of the second half of the 20th century has prevented these armed conflicts from being resolved through negotiation and peace agreements. Fourth, with a few exceptions, the international community has not been involved in peace-making or conflict-prevention activities in the region as most of the conflicts in East Asia are do not feature in mass media and do not enter the international agenda, or because almost all the governments, and even the ASEAN, have traditionally rejected any outside interference as a violation of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Considering the very few peace agreements that have been signed in East Asia over the last three decades, it seems that the decline in warfare in the region cannot be attributed to an increase in peace making capacity, but only to a certain degree of conflict avoidance. To synthesize, three kinds of agreements have been reached in East Asia since 1979: a) international agreements, e.g., between China and India in 1993, 1996 and 2005; between Indonesia and Malaysia in 2002; and between North and South Korea b) internal peace agreements, e.g., concerning Mindanao 1996; Cordillera 1986; Cambodia 1991; Sulawesi and Maluku 2001 and 2002 c) internal ceasefire agreements, e.g, in Burma and Northeast India, as well as the 2003 agreement between the MILF and the government of the Philippines. Although some of these agreements have successfully reduced the mortality rates in the region, in general terms they have either not addressed the root causes of conflict (like the ceasefire agreements with the ethnic armed groups in Burma and Northeast India), or they have not been fully implemented (like the 1996 peace agreement in Mindanao) and have thus not removed the risk of fresh outbreaks of violence.

Conclusions

Depending on the meanings attached to peace, diff
erent views of the situation in East Asia emerge. It can be argued that the governments in the region have managed the conflicts in a way that has prevented them from escalating to the stage of open violence, and that this has kept the number of casualties low – in comparison with East Asia before 1979 and with other world regions after 1979. However, there is also an alternative, more pessimistic view that regards these latent conflicts as a constant danger and emphasizes that East Asia has not been able to resolve its deep-rooted conflicts in a sustainable way, so violence may easily flare up again and spread.

Whatever the truth, further research is needed on the factors behind the dramatic decline in battle-related deaths from 1979 onwards. One plausible explanation may be that political, economical and geopolitical structural changes have created systemic conditions more conducive to peace. An alternative explanation, however, is that the non-state armed groups in East Asia have lost some of their former military strength to launch major attacks on the state. With the exception of the MILF and the NPA in the Philippines, all the armed groups in the region are small and factionalized – Abu Sayyaf, as well as the dozens of outfits operating in Northeast India and Southern Thailand, or old and ill-equipped -the OPM in West Papua, the MNLF in the Philippines, the KNU, the KNPP or the SSA-S in Burma, the ULFA or the NSCN in Northeast India. The reduction in the military capacity of the armed opposition groups is probably related to the end of the Cold War when most guerrillas stopped receiving economic, logistical and political support from foreign countries, and to the ‘Good Neighbour Policy’ prompted by the increase in regionalism and trade – the ‘liberal peace’ – during the 1990s.

 


[i] School for a Culture of Peace, /Alert 2009. Report on conflicts, human rights and peacebuilding/, Icaria Editorial, Barcelona, 2009.

 

 

Jordi Urgell is researcher at the School for a Culture of Peace

(Autonomous University of Barcelona). His teaching and research areas

include conflict analysis, peace negotiations and resolution of

self-determination struggles. He has done field research in conflict

areas in Latin America and Asia, like in India, Burma, Indonesia, the Philippines or Thailand.

 


 [SP1]Whose definition is this? Compare to the UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Dataset which defines conflict as: “a contested incompatibility that concerns government and/or territory where the use of armed force between two parties, of which at least one is the government of a state, results in at least 25 battle-related deaths.”

 [LH2]Please add reference: autor/editor, year of publication, full title, place of publication 

 

 

 


Understanding the East Asian peace: some findings on the role of informal processes by Mikael Weissmann, University of Gothenbur

Understanding the East Asian peace: some findings on the role of informal processes by Mikael Weissmann, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

This article will discuss why the interstate conflicts in the post-Cold War East Asian security setting have not escalated into war despite a lack of security organisations or other formalised conflict management mechanisms. It is argued that there are a number of informal processes in the region that can help explain this paradox. The article is based on the findings of the author’s doctoral project on ‘Understanding the East Asian Peace’ with focus on the role of China in the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, and the Korean Peninsula.

 

The East Asian interstate peace since 1979 is a paradox. It has continued despite East Asia being a region with a history of militarised conflicts and many of the world’s most persistently militarised problems, including a number of unresolved flashpoints. It is also a region with a high of intraregional distrust including deep unresolved historical issues. In addition to this ther are strong nationalist tendencies and numerous ethnic conflicts across the region. The dominant research paradigm for analyses of the East Asian security setting is that of neorealism. Scholars following this paradigm have painted a gloomy picture of the future prospects of post-Cold War East Asia. They predict it to be a region of perpetual conflict. In addition to the above, neorealists also emphasise the presence of rising great powers and the shifting balance of power as causes of conflict. Still, the level of interstate violence has been very low.

 

It should be acknowledged here that other mainstream International Relations theories do not paint as dark a picture as realism, but they fail to fully account for the East Asian peace. For example, liberalism tends to either give the various institutional arrangements in East Asia more prominence than they deserve, or dismiss them simply because they are so different from the Western ones, while constructivism tends to give more credit to Asian identity building than it deserves.

 

The East Asian peace exists despite the region lacking any security organisation or other formalised mechanisms to prevent existing or potential conflicts from escalating and/or to build peace. Thus, the logical question to ask is whether there are other processes and mechanisms that can help to explain the East Asian peace. If so, what are they, and how do they work? In my forthcoming doctoral dissertation, I aim at developing an understanding of the role and impact of such cross-border interactions that go beyond formal peace-building, conflict prevention, conflict management, and conflict resolution mechanisms. An underlying hypothesis has been that a number of informal processes and related mechanisms can help explain the relative peace in East Asia.

 

The thesis takes account of the full range of informal–formal processes,ranging from those going on within formalised institutions such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the six-party talks, through semi-formal track-two frameworks, to purely informal ones such as interaction within personal networks.

 

Understanding the East Asian peace

 

The findings concerning China’s role in keeping peace in the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, and on the Korean Peninsula confirm the underlying hypothesis that various informal processes and related mechanisms can help explain the relative peace. Virtually all of the identified processes and related mechanisms have been informal rather than formal. It should be noted that it is not necessarily the same types of processes that have been of importance in each and every case. In different ways these informal processes have demonstrated that the relative lack of formalised security structures and/or mechanisms have not prevented the region from moving towards a stable peace. Informal processes have been sufficient both to prevent tension and disputes from escalating into war and for moving East Asia towards a stable peace.

 

Elite interactions – i.e. personal networks, track-two diplomacy, and other forms of elite socialisation – have been essential both on the official and unofficial levels. Firstly, these interactions have been essential for trust and confidence building, which is of high importance in a region where trust and confidence building are not only key features of the accepted diplomatic norm, but are also deeply embedded in the regional cultures and societies. Elite interactions have been essential for peace in all three cases. They have also been important for the possibility to use back-channel negotiations, something that has been beneficial for conflict prevention across the cases. Elite interactions have also been important for the development of multilateralism and the building of peaceful relations. They have also been essential for enhancing the understanding of the other side(s). Understanding is important, because without an understanding of the others’ thinking, perceived interests and intentions it is very difficult to prevent conflict escalation, and virtually impossible to build a longer-term peace. Understanding is also important to be able to overcome the range of historical issues.

 

Economic integration and interdependence

 

(EII) and the interlinked functional cooperation have been important, as they have pushed positive relations towards a durable peace. This includes not only increasing cooperation and economic growth and development, but also developing a feeling of security as the economic integration and interdependence decreases the fear of others. EII and functional cooperation have also encouraged and created a need for diplomatic relations and intergovernmental communication and agreements. They have also been catalysts for all forms of cross-border contacts including being a driving force for regionalisation. This is clearly seen in Sino–ASEAN relations and the ASEAN+3 process, but also across the Taiwan Strait where it was part of the cause of the shift in power in the 2008 elections.

 

Together with the Chinese acceptance of multilateralism and its shift from big-power oriented foreign policy to a focus on soft power and the building of good relations with China’s neighbours, EII has been essential for the medium to longer-term overarching peace-building process in East Asia. In this context, what has been of particular importance for peace is both the high degree of economic interdependence that has developed, as well as the forces of the pan-regional ‘economics first’ policy focus. Here, the general acceptance of the ASEAN Way as the norm for diplomacy, with its emphasis on conflict avoidance, has worked together with the economic incentives in preventing conflict escalations and building peace.

 

A common feature of most of the processes is that they can be understood as aspects or manifestations of the East Asian regionalisation process. For example, elite interactions are in a sense both manifestations of, and catalysts for, regionalisation; these forms of interactions are an unavoidable result or regionalisation, while at the same time, elite interactions are in themselves important for driving regionalisation. The regionalisation process has been of foremost importance for virtually all East Asian states’ overall foreign policy interests and behaviours.

 

It has been important for ASEAN’s attempt to socialise China into becoming a responsible big power in the regional community, in order to ensure that the Chinese interests would gradually become integrated with the interests of East Asia as a whole. Over time, China has re-interpreted its role and interests as a rising power and has engaged in the ASEAN+3 process and embraced multilateralism and the ASEAN Way. This has been a reciprocal process between China’s ‘soft power diplomacy’ and ASEAN’s ‘constructive engagemen
t’ policies. It is difficult to say what has caused what, i.e., to what extent China has been socialised by ASEAN to accept current practices and to become what seems to be a more benign power, and to what extent the Chinese policies have influenced ASEAN’s increased acceptance of China as a partner and a (relatively) benign, peacefully rising power. It is most likely that it is not an either–or question, but a transformation where there have been synergy effects between ‘soft-power diplomacy’ and “constructive engagement”. Regionalisation has also ensured that China (and others) adheres to an ‘economic first’ foreign policy focus, and that the overall peaceful relations in East Asia have developed and have been institutionalised. Although multilateralism and institutionalisation have only been identified in the South China Sea and Sino–ASEAN relations, they still have a spill over effect on Chinese behaviour in other conflicts. If China would behave badly in one case, it would risk losing its laboriously built trust towards ASEAN.

 

Lastly, the USA has contributed to peace by working as a frame for acceptable behaviour, safeguarding against conflict escalation over the war threshold. It has helped to ensure that negative relations do not escalate into or beyond (temporary) crises. This is important, as little has been done to address and resolve underlying incompatibilities, tensions, and disputes. By its presence, the USA also gives space for the range of other processes beneficial for peace to develop in a positive direction. In short, as the USA is perceived as a safeguard against violent confrontations, the regional parties can focus on developing good relations and continue to increase cooperation in the economic and other spheres.

 

Mikael Weissmann is a doctoral candidate in Peace and Development Studies at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and the holder of one of the Swedish School of Advanced Asia Pacific Studies’ (SSAAPS) Ph.D. Fellowships. Mr. Weissmann has published on conflict prevention and peace building in East Asia. He has also written on informal networks, early warning and conflict management theory.

 

by: Mikael Weissmann, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. This article will discuss why the interstate conflicts in the post-Cold War East Asian security setting have not escalated into war despite a lack of security organisations or other formalised conflict management mechanisms. It is argued that there are a number of informal processes in the region that can help explain this paradox. The article is based on the findings of the author’s doctoral project on ‘Understanding the East Asian Peace’ with focus on the role of China in the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, and the Korean Peninsula.

 

 

Introduction

The East Asian interstate peace since 1979 is a paradox. It has continued despite East Asia being a region with a history of militarised conflicts and many of the world’s most persistently militarised problems, including a number of unresolved flashpoints. It is also a region with a high level of intraregional distrust including deep unresolved historical issues. In addition to this there are strong nationalist tendencies and numerous ethnic conflicts across the region. The dominant research paradigm for analyses of the East Asian security setting is that of neorealism.  Scholars following this paradigm have painted a gloomy picture of the future prospects of post-Cold War East Asia. They predict it to be a region of perpetual conflict. In addition to the above, neorealists also emphasise the presence of rising great powers and the shifting balance of power as causes of conflict. Still, the level of interstate violence has been very low.

It should be acknowledged here that other mainstream International Relations theories do not paint as dark a picture as realism, but they fail to fully account for the East Asian peace. For example, liberalism tends to either give the various institutional arrangements in East Asia more prominence than they deserve, or dismiss them simply because they are so different from the Western ones, while constructivism tends to give more credit to Asian identity building than it deserves.

The East Asian peace exists despite the region lacking any security organisation or other formalised mechanisms to prevent existing or potential conflicts from escalating and/or to build peace. Thus, the logical question to ask is whether there are other processes and mechanisms that can help to explain the East Asian peace. If so, what are they, and how do they work? In my forthcoming doctoral dissertation, I aim at developing an understanding of the role and impact of such cross-border interactions that go beyond formal peace-building, conflict prevention, conflict management, and conflict resolution mechanisms. An underlying hypothesis has been that a number of informal processes and related mechanisms can help explain the relative peace in East Asia. The thesis takes account of the full range of informal-formal processes, ranging from those going on within formalised institutions such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the six-party talks, through semi-formal track-two frameworks, to purely informal ones such as interaction within personal networks.

Understanding the East Asian peace

The findings concerning China’s role in keeping peace in the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, and on the Korean Peninsula confirm the underlying hypothesis that various informal processes and related mechanisms can help explain the relative peace. Virtually all of the identified processes and related mechanisms have been informal rather than formal. It should be noted that it is not necessarily the same types of processes that have been of importance in each and every case. In different ways these informal processes have demonstrated that the relative lack of formalised security structures and/or mechanisms have not prevented the region from moving towards a stable peace. Informal processes have been sufficient both to prevent tension and disputes from escalating into war and for moving East Asia towards a stable peace.

Elite interactions – i.e. personal networks, track-two diplomacy, and other forms of elite socialisation – have been essential both on the official and unofficial levels. Firstly, these interactions have been essential for trust and confidence building, which is of high importance in a region where trust and confidence building are not only key features of the accepted diplomatic norm, but are also deeply embedded in the regional cultures and societies. Elite interactions have been essential for peace in all three cases. They have also been important for the possibility to use back-channel negotiations, something that has been beneficial for conflict prevention across the cases. Elite interactions have also been important for the development of multilateralism and the building of peaceful relations. They have also been essential for enhancing the understanding of the other side(s). Understanding is important, because without an understanding of the others’ thinking, perceived interests and intentions it is very difficult to preve
nt conflict escalation, and virtually impossible to build a longer-term peace. Understanding is also important to be able to overcome the range of historical issues.

Economic integration and interdependence (EII) and the interlinked functional cooperation have been important, as they have pushed positive relations towards a durable peace. This includes not only increasing cooperation and economic growth and development, but also developing a feeling of security as the economic integration and interdependence decreases the fear of others. EII and functional cooperation have also encouraged and created a need for diplomatic relations and intergovernmental communication and agreements. They have also been catalysts for all forms of cross-border contacts including being a driving force for regionalisation. This is clearly seen in Sino-ASEAN relations and the ASEAN+3 process, but also across the Taiwan Strait where it was part of the cause of the shift in power in the 2008 elections.

Together with the Chinese acceptance of multilateralism and its shift from big-power oriented foreign policy to a focus on soft power and the building of good relations with China’s neighbours, EII has been essential for the medium to longer-term overarching peace-building process in East Asia. In this context, what has been of particular importance for peace is both the high degree of economic interdependence that has developed, as well as the forces of the pan-regional ‘economics first’ policy focus. Here, the general acceptance of the ASEAN Way as the norm for diplomacy, with its emphasis on conflict avoidance, has worked together with the economic incentives in preventing conflict escalations and building peace.

A common feature of most of the processes is that they can be understood as aspects or manifestations of the East Asian regionalisation process. For example, elite interactions are in a sense both manifestations of, and catalysts for, regionalisation; these forms of interactions are an unavoidable result or regionalisation, while at the same time, elite interactions are in themselves important for driving regionalisation. The regionalisation process has been of foremost importance for virtually all East Asian states’ overall foreign policy interests and behaviours. It has been important for ASEAN’s attempt to socialise China into becoming a responsible big power in the regional community, in order to ensure that the Chinese interests would gradually become integrated with the interests of East Asia as a whole. Over time, China has re-interpreted its role and interests as a rising power and has engaged in the ASEAN+3 process and embraced multilateralism and the ASEAN Way. This has been a reciprocal process between China’s ‘soft power diplomacy’ and ASEAN’s ‘constructive engagement’ policies. It is difficult to say what has caused what, i.e., to what extent China has been socialised by ASEAN to accept current practices and to become what seems to be a more benign power, and to what extent the Chinese policies have influenced ASEAN’s increased acceptance of China as a partner and a (relatively) benign, peacefully rising power. It is most likely that it is not an either-or question, but a transformation where there have been synergy effects between ‘soft-power diplomacy’ and “constructive engagement”. Regionalisation has also ensured that China (and others) adheres to an ‘economic first’ foreign policy focus, and that the overall peaceful relations in East Asia have developed and have been institutionalised. Although multilateralism and institutionalisation have only been identified in the South China Sea and Sino-ASEAN relations, they still have a spill over effect on Chinese behaviour in other conflicts. If China would behave badly in one case, it would risk losing its laboriously built trust towards ASEAN.

Lastly, the USA has contributed to peace by working as a frame for acceptable behaviour, safeguarding against conflict escalation over the war threshold. It has helped to ensure that negative relations do not escalate into or beyond (temporary) crises. This is important, as little has been done to address and resolve underlying incompatibilities, tensions, and disputes. By its presence, the USA also gives space for the range of other processes beneficial for peace to develop in a positive direction. In short, as the USA is perceived as a safeguard against violent confrontations, the regional parties can focus on developing good relations and continue to increase cooperation in the economic and other spheres.

Mikael Weissmann is a doctoral candidate in Peace and Development Studies at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and the holder of one of the Swedish School of Advanced Asia Pacific Studies’ (SSAAPS) Ph.D. Fellowships.  Mr. Weissmann has published on conflict prevention and peace building in East Asia. He has also written on informal networks, early warning and conflict management theory.<