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March 1, 2018

Responding To: The Future of U.S.-China Climate Change Efforts

U.S. Withdrawal Negatively Affects its Global Leadership

Zhang Xiliang

The United States was the leading power, but the government’s withdrawal has negatively affected its global leadership and naturally signifies China’s influence. However, from China’s own perspective, we don’t want to replace the United States and become the leader; China prefers a multilateral system of governance. As I see it, U.S. withdrawal from the agreement would not be a good thing for the country. Previously, the United States’ greatest strength was its soft power and its ability to provide public goods to the world. U.S. withdrawal from climate change efforts will certainly have a negative impact on that and is not fundamentally in line with the interests of the United States. I think this is a short-sighted decision because climate change, as a global issue, will affect not only China and Europe but also the United States. China is pushed to play a greater role. As for leadership, I think China may not yet be ready to serve as a capable leader in the way the United States did.

Zhang Xiliang is executive director of the Institute of Energy, Environment and the Economy at Tsinghua University. He is a co-convener of the Initiative for U.S. -China Dialogue on Global Issues faculty research group on climate change.

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