Daniel Abebe and Jonathan Masur: "The Two Chinas and the Problem of Global Warming"
Can China be convinced to join an international climate change agreement? Existing studies that purport to answer this question incorrectly treat China as a unitary nation, leading to inaccurate projections about the behavior of the Chinese State and even China's future carbon emissions. Contrary to widespread belief, the Chinese Communist Party governs a remarkably weak central government; the real political power in China is vested in the provinces. Nor are these provinces remotely homogeneous. There are in fact "Two Chinas": a prosperous, industrialized Eastern China and a developing Western China. The divergent incentives of these two regions, the central government's weak capacity for governance, and the necessity of economic growth for social stability make the prospects for a climate accord slim. Our outlook is bleak: China may have little ability to limit its carbon emissions and little interest in doing so.
Daniel Abebe and Jonathan Masur are Assistant Professors of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. This talk was recorded January 14, 2009 as part of the "Chicago's Best Ideas" lecture series.