Climate of Change: A Foreign Policy Analysis of China's Participation in International Environmental Agreements
University of Kansas
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In 2007 China became the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide. China's increased emissions have more than offset all reductions made under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. This makes China's participation in international environmental agreements, to address issues such as climate change, essential. What is puzzling about China's foreign policy on environmental issues and participation in international agreements are the inconsistencies over time. Previous research on Chinese foreign policy has not fully addressed or explained China's participation in international environmental agreements. . The broader literature on Chinese foreign policy indicates that leadership is the key factor determining policy decisions and implementation. Emerging research suggests that public opinion may also play a role, but the results are inconclusive. This study examines whether and how leadership and public opinion shape China's foreign policy on environmental issues. Three cases are examined: the 1987 Montreal Protocol, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2009 Copenhagen Accords. Using the congruence method I examine how China's participation in the three treaties corresponds to expectations based on existing literature. The results of this study are in line with previous research. Leadership appears to be the primary determinant of Chinese foreign policy on international environmental issues, while public opinion has no influence. Despite a continued emphasis by Chinese leaders on the importance of international environmental issues, Chinese participation and the nature of this participation has varied depending on the leader. Under each successive leader, China became progressively more active in the negotiations of environmental treaties and more assertive in promoting its position. This evidence suggests that China will continue to play a major role in international environmental agreements and international affairs in general as a new generation of leaders come to power.
- Political Science Dissertations and Theses 
- Theses 
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