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Is China Still a Developing Country?

Why Copenhagen May End with Beijing Looking Like the Conciliatory Party

By Ann Danylkiw

Dec 16, 2009

Reporting from Copenhagen

China and the U.S. spent much of last week goading each other on impassible positions.

The Chinese, on behalf of developing country colleagues in the G77, want developed countries to live up to their “historic responsibility” for climate change and provide enough funding for adaptation and mitigation to help developing countries face the challenges posed by climate change.

The U.S., while offering money to developing countries, denied that China is still a developing country.

Over the course of the week’s press briefings, China’s lead negotiator, Su Wei, and Special Representative for Climate Change Yu Qingtai repeatedly berated the U.S. for not doing enough in terms of its emissions reduction targets or its financial commitments.

Last Tuesday, Su called the U.S. commitments “neither notable or remarkable” and said that the U.S. was fudging its numbers by making emissions reductions targets from 2005 levels. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions almost 17% from 1990 until 2007, he pointed out. Promising a 17% reduction by 2020 on 2005 numbers equates to little more than a 4% drop from 1990 levels. Most other countries are using 1990 as the baseline, which was agreed to at Kyoto.

In a press conference on Friday, He Yafei, vice minister of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, clearly stipulated “China is a developing country.”

He acknowledged that while China’s aggregate GDP is very large, China still has 150 million people below the poverty line of a population of 1.3 billion. According to for 2007, mainland China's GDP per capita was just $2,604, lower than its emerging market compatriots Brazil and South Africa. Comparatively, India’s was $976 and the United States' was $45,047.

“I think China is still clearly a developing country, but it's a complex one with non-trivial wealth," said China expert and businessman Alexander Conrad.

"China's recent economic growth has been remarkable, millions have been lifted out of poverty and significant infrastructure has been put in place, yet millions remain in poverty and further investment as a developing country is needed. This is best viewed by looking at China's GDP or other metrics on a per capita basis, which validates the 'developing' status for the country.”

For the developing countries, who face the greatest threat from climate change, Copenhagen is about defending not only their right to industrialize in the longer term, but more so not losing ground they have gained already.

The U.S., noting China is the world’s fastest increasing emitter, has called for Beijing to commit to hard carbon caps.

Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy for climate change, notes that “virtually all the growth in emissions going forward — nearly all of it — is going to come from developing countries. The IEA estimates 97 percent is going to come from developing countries between now and 2030. Fifty percent of it — 50 percent — from China alone over the next 20 years, of the growth in emissions.”

He Yafei says China is doing its part:

“China’s commitment is unconditional. What we have committed voluntarily is in full accord with Bali action plan. It has a full legal guarantee domestically. If you will compare what we are going to do with that of developed countries I would say proudly, is what we will be doing is no less than any developed country."

China’s reduction commitments will be passed in legislation and included in every forthcoming 5 year economic plan, plans around which China’s economy revolves and through which it delivers “the goods” to its people, He said.

Mark Griffin Smith, a professor of economics and business at Colorado College who spent the last year researching the business of climate change, notes that a key reason people agree to be governed is that government can "deliver the goods" and provide a better quality of life.

"That is the legitimacy of the Chinese government," Smith said.

“They fundamentally cannot take a decision where its people perceive that they are not materially advancing. ... They see it as a question of political stability.”

“They’re looking for the creation of a climatic regime which allows them to continue to make economic progress and so they look at intensity targets, investment in renewable energy, investment in technology that continue them to maintain their economic progress,” Smith explained.

Sameel Huq of the IIED said: “China wishes to be seen as a developing country."

By Friday, Stern had intimated that the U.S. no longer considers China a developing country, saying that is not “in need” of financial assistance to adapt to climate change. Also on Friday, He Yafei said that when China asks for financial adaptation and mitigation assistance, "It's not China asking, it is developing countries. It is the legal obligation of developed countries."

Indeed, China may not need significant financial assistance.

The largest number of CDM projects are located in China. According to Ecosecurities Indonesia Director Agus Sari, via a 2% tax on CDM transactions, China is already the largest contributor to the current form of the adaptation and mitigation fund.

A Climate Group report notes that China’s energy sector is dynamic, as 65% of all solar water heaters are in mainland China, which also manufactures 30% of all solar photovoltaic panels. China’s wind power generation capacity has doubled each year for the past few. Last month at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, China and Africa concluded a bilateral aid agreement for technology demonstration centers, open market solutions, and loans for small to medium sized enterprises in Africa. NYU estimates , particularly to Latin America and Africa, has greatly increased in the last five years. China’s aid and investment activities in Africa alone totaled over $33 billion from 2002-2007.

That is why on Sunday, it was not at all surprising that He Yafei that China would likely not take funds from a global adaptation and mitigation fund, having made clear on Friday that China’s reduction commitments for 2020 are not based on external assistance.

Even by Saturday evening, the tone from the Chinese had softened. A jovial Su Wei briefed the press on China’s position on the release of agreement draft texts that day, saying, “According to the negotiations and consultations in the last week, I believe that the consultations are positive and it is full of hope that we can achieve outcomes. ... The text show that we are moving forward and making positive progress.” Su added, "We emphasize that it is a party driven and inclusive process.”

In last night's press conference, the conciliatory language held, despite the fact that (as relayed by Ambassador Yu Qingtai) developed countries are insisting behind closed doors that “the Kyoto Protocol will not live beyond 2012.”

“We are ready to have exchanges, consultations, and negotiations with all the parties with a constructive attitude in the last days to work for success of the Copenhagen conference we are ready to make our utmost effort,” Yu said.

Earlier in the day, ministers of the four BASIC emerging market countries — Brazil, South Africa, India and China — made a coordinated statement of unity and commitment to the negotiating process. While there is little doubt that the BASICs are unified, China is the only one of the group able to fund it’s own green transition. And China’s ability to cooperate so far, while the U.S. can barely offer a domestic legislative climate change guarantee, shows that Vice Minister’s He’s promise to the Financial Times that “China will not be an obstacle” to a deal at Copenhagen may be credible.

 

See also:

China’s Entrepreneurs Are Ready, But Is Their Government?

China's Smart Grid Ambitions Could Open Door to US-China Cooperation

UN Climate Chief Praises China, Says US Must Deliver Concrete 2020 Target

China Sets 2020 Emissions Target in Interest of National Security

Evolution Solar: China Now 'Center of Gravity' for Solar Manufacturing

 

China will be a developed

China will be a developed country and superpower in 20 to 30 years

thank you

thank you

Todd Stern is ignorant

He only talks about the emission growth, but not the historical and current emission. The developed nations currently account for 90% of planet's green gas dump. The developed nations must have a big cut to make room for developing countries to dump. If he truly believes that 50 percent of the growth in emissions in the next 20 years will come from China (even if it is true, China emissions per capita is still less than half of US), the most effective and efficient way for developed nations is to help China to tackle the problem in a big way, rather than give some developing countries peanuts and deny China and other big developing countries any funding

Essentially will

Essentially will the US be borrowing (and paying interest on) money from the Chinese Government, only to donate it back to them??

Chinese Aid?

"China’s aid and investment activities in Africa alone totaled over $33 billion from 2002-2007."

Make no mistake, China's interest in Africa is for oil reserves, the Aid that they've given is in exchanged for leases and rights to oil from Nigeria to Liberia a simple google search will show you that.

Answer the real Question

The real Question is, will China be receiving funds from developed nations like the rest of the poor developing nations will?

Essentially will the US be borrowing (and paying interest on) money from the Chinese Government, only to donate it back to them?

When we ask if China is

When we ask if China is still a developing country, in this context at least, what we mean is: to what extent should China be bound by the rules proposed for wealthy nations and to what extent by those for poorer ones. One thing to remember is that the rules we are talking about aren't for the past but for the future--for many decades in the future. And this makes the case for China to claim impoverished status even more absurd than it would otherwise be. While China's per capita income level is currently low, it certainly won't be in a decade's time and even less in two decade's time. Couple this with the massive foreign currency reserves China already holds, and this makes any claim of China needing help pretty ridiculous. In fact, I think a good case could be made for China, already the world's largest CO2 polluter, to start funding the greening of truly poor nations.

Re: But what else?

The real Question is, will China be receiving funds from developed nations like the rest of the poor developing nations will?

Essentially will the US be borrowing (and paying interest on) money from the Chinese Government, only to donate it back to them?

China Strategy

Good.... U have a pretty blog ! Is Wen preponing Copenhagen visit to counter Browns'
$ 100 Bn bait to kill Kyoto ?

China is a developing country

Is China Still a Developing Country?

The answer is an obvious yes in all measures. China's GDP per capita was about $3,000, not only lower than that of the United States ($45,000), but also lower than Brazil ($10,000) and South Africa ($5,000). China also has 150 million people below the poverty line by the UN definition, equivalent to half of US population. China greenhouse gas emissions per capita is less than a quarter of US. where is the conclusion "China is the only one of the group able to fund it’s own green transition." coming from? Is that because China has taken proactive measures to allocate a large fund to solve the issue? That is not fair at all.

Given the above facts, China is already already doing a big favor to the world by pledging 40-45% reduction in the emission growth rate.

Todd Stern is ignorant. He only talks about the emission growth, but not the historical and current emission. The developed nations currently account for 90% of planet's green gas dump. The developed nations must have a big cut to make room for developing countries to dump. If he truly believes that 50 percent of the growth in emissions in the next 20 years will come from China (even if it is true, China emissions per capita is still less than half of US), the most effective and efficient way for developed nations is to help China to tackle the problem in a big way, rather than give some developing countries peanuts and deny China and other big developing countries any funding.

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