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From the coal monster to the green giant : how leaders' perceptions changed China's climate diplomacy? Pan, Chang


Compared to China’s tough position in 2009, China’s cooperative stance at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference has been celebrated by the international community as a radical shift in China’s climate diplomacy. In contrast, this paper argues that although China has become proactive in its climate diplomacy, its stance on climate mitigation has been consistently conservative. I argue that the change in elites’ perception of sustainable development has driven China to become more cooperative but the national interest still limits its ambition in its international climate commitment. I employ process tracing to reveal that the ideational source of this perception shift is the incorporation of the climate protection norm advocated by domestic political leaders. The disaggregation of China’s climate policy into a domestic and international dimension attempts to challenge the theoretical divide between the rationalist and social constructivist approach to China’s climate policy. The finding of this paper bridges the gap in understanding China’s climate politics, contributes to theory building in climate diplomacy, and advances the debate between the rational choice theory and social constructivism.

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