China’s Diplomatic Triumph

Mark Lynas writes in the Guardian today about the final chaotic day of the Copenhagen conference:

Copenhagen was a disaster. That much is agreed. But the truth about what actually happened is in danger of being lost amid the spin and inevitable mutual recriminations. The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful “deal” so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.

….Even George Monbiot, writing in yesterday’s Guardian, made the mistake of singly blaming Obama. But I saw Obama fighting desperately to salvage a deal, and the Chinese delegate saying “no”, over and over again….Here’s what actually went on late last Friday night, as heads of state from two dozen countries met behind closed doors….

The whole piece is worth reading. It’s certainly arguable that Western leaders pursued a poor strategy at Copenhagen, but most of the evidence suggests that Lynas is right: the key stumbling block was China, which simply had no intention of agreeing to anything measurable and significant. Nothing Obama or the others did would have changed that.

By itself, that’s not too surprising. What I have found surprising is that China has largely gotten away with this. There’s been a bit of criticism of their obstructionism, but it’s been almost completely drowned out by attacks on world leaders who were far more willing to do a deal than they were. And just to make China’s victory complete, those same leaders have been largely (though not completely) unwilling to call them out on this. It’s a pretty sweet deal for Beijing.

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