A View into China

"China needs to learn more about the world, and the world also needs to know more about China."

- Xi Jinping 15 November 2012 Central Politburo of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China


The unique selling point of this initiative is creating shared cultural understanding within an exclusive circle of trust of highly influential people in trade, policy, business in China and the West. Through frank dialogue in a series of salons, we will give them the soft knowledge for improved collaboration and more transparency into what is happening in China. Successful cultural diplomacy is a foundation for successful climate diplomacy, foreign diplomacy and responsible trade.

A key success factor is creating a circle with a mix of people with the right attitude. And using careful facilitation to create honest and considerate dialogue.

The China Challenge

China is the largest player in climate change and trade. Yet there is so little understanding of how Chinese make decisions and implement changes on the ground. The gap between what China is doing to go green and the awareness abroad of its actions and commitment is surprisingly large. China’s rapid rise in global influence has not been accompanied by an equal increase in leadership capability to interact in the West. In turn, the West needs a better gateway to China. This initiative helps to increase cultural understanding of China, create more transparency into China’s sustainability journey, and improve foreign diplomacy with China. Climate change is the biggest long-term challenge for humanity. China is the battlefront. If we are to successfully tackle this challenge, the world must work hand-in-hand with China. Inbound, China clearly needs international support to find low-carbon solutions for its gigasized challenges. It needs to improve its global network and reach. The China Gateway helps China both be successful at home and foster export growth abroad. Outbound, China’s rise has a large, unplanned impact on other nations’ low-carbon development paths. China has missed opportunities in finding sustainability solutions for its gigasized environmental challenges.


China needs to improve its global network to identify solutions that can work in China. Misunderstandings or lack of understanding also creates barriers to collaboration that prevents international solution providers from bringing their solutions to China and helping make an impact. Economically it makes sense to for Western companies to increase collaboration with China to quicken the commercialization of sustainability solutions. Deploying in China can bring economies of scale and make solutions more affordable for people around the world. China has significant impact on trade and natural resource extraction in Africa, Latin America and other regions. This has an indirect, unintended and unplanned impact on the low carbon development of these other nations. How can China help Latin America/Africa become what they want to be? (e.g. Take a low carbon path) How can China be an active player in the building of international cooperation and creation of global public good? Can China move from trading partner to planning partner? Developing nations like Brazil will look to China to see how it goes low carbon. If other countries could see how determined and methodical China was to approaching a low-carbon pathway, it might inspire these countries in their own development. China is the only significantly sized country that stress tests a long-term (2030) national development plan against a trade-restrained and resource-constrained economy. In fact, most countries don’t have a plan for 2030. It’s hard for countries that don’t know what their country will look like in 2030 to agree on global climate treaty. These plans are necessary to lead an orderly instead of disorderly transition in our economies and energy systems to an inevitable zero carbon economy future.

Can sharing China's journey help nations along their own path to a low carbon pathway? China’s increased capital flow to the West can spur on more low carbon development around the world, if channeled correctly without political barriers. Now, Chinese companies have large ambitions but little capability to go global. Future opportunities with China is not just cash flows out of China to build out infrastructure, but also include China companies buying foreign utilities and establishing a global clean energy enterprise. Can we direct more Chinese investment in low carbon development globally, by strategically improving Chinese companies’ social and business networks abroad? To battle climate change globally, we need all countries and companies to do their part. Politicians in other countries sometimes use their lack of awareness of China’s commitment to sustainability as an excuse for their own inactions. Are there ways to make China’s efforts in climate change and its motivations more transparent to the West so we can eliminate that as a barrier to a global agreement? For example, China’s future energy patterns will affect other nation’s economies significantly (as in the case of Australia). These countries need to understand how seriously China is contemplating a different energy mix. 


Key goals, progress and next steps:

1. Goal: Influence the national low-carbon development paths of both China and key countries via increased cultural understanding of, and improved foreign policy diplomacy with, China. What is unique about this China Gateway is that it is a collaborative vehicle for shared cultural understanding. Through facilitating shared experiences, we will develop a deep level of trust between extremely influential peoples who shape trade, policy, and business.

2. Strategy: Over the next 5 years, invest in developing long-term trusted relationships between 100 influencers in the West and China. This exclusive network can lay a strong foundation for better collaborations as China rises in its ability to act on the world stage, and as China implements its 13th Five Year Plan. This community can be positioned to help positively shape China’s 14th Five Year Plan. This will require:

a. Bring Western leaders to China to have open, frank conversations in a series of small intimate salons for mutual understanding, trust, and dialogue. Delegates should be motivated to learn more about China, within China, and active on the global stage-- and who advise the trusted advisors of policy makers who decide nations’ low carbon development paths. They are designed to make long-term relationships of trust between key people in China and The West. Salons will be a combination of cultural 101 and a specific open-ended question: eg. Is the time right for a global solar corporation/industry? How can Chinese capital come out to the global markets?

b. Strengthen China’s ability to communicate with the West in media and in global forums to help its leaders develop cross-border, political, business, and social networks.

c. Next steps: We are looking to fund a secretariat to coordinate the network, run the events, write insights, and manage media. Funding will also subsidize travel as needed and cover events costs. We are selecting conveners of delegates to form the initial network. The next series of salons are being planned in Beijing. 



Salons in Beijing:

1. Hold a series of small, in-person, trust-building salons in Beijing.

Trust is key: The frank, off-the-record conversations are heart-to-heart discussions that go deeper than you normally would in China on delegations. They are designed to make long-term relationships of trust between key people in China and The West. We are looking to create a more informal atmosphere to make people comfortable and develop trust. When most high-level delegates travel to China, they end up in VIP rooms with hierarchal Chinese seating. Size: Small cross-sector groups of 8 people from the West, matched with 8-10 peers in China. Plenty of translators, or simultaneous interpretation with headsets. Topics: Each salon will cover some amount of China 101. This is the structure of previous sessions so far at CAG, CELAP, Party School. Insight into the “soft stuff” of cultural differences. The context of how Chinese history affects decision-making discussed. What makes China really unique? In a trusted environment, Chinese are very open to discussing questions and giving frank answers.

In Sept 2013 JUCCCE organized a lecture and Q&A with the Vice Dean of CELAP and 50 members of World Economic Forum. This was remarkably open- talking about everything from democracy, to corruption, to concubines. In addition, a specific open-ended question will help properly select and mix the attendees at each salon. eg. Is the time right for a global solar corporation/industry? How can Chinese capital come out to the global markets? One example: In July 2014, an intimate dinner roundtable was held to discuss China’s role in the climate talks process. It was in Beijing and run by JUCCCE and Accenture. Attendees from NDRC, Ministry of Science & Tech, China Academy of Governance, Ministry of Housing & Urban-Rural Development, Columbia U, World Food Programme, Peony Capital, CCTV, Energy Foundation. There was a unanimous call for more events.

Location: In most cases, salons will be held in Beijing due to travel restrictions for Chinese participants. Optional add-on events in Shanghai may be organized. In some cases, China Gateway conveners may hold an event in their local region. For example, David Sandalow and Peggy will speak on Nov 21, 2014 Columbia U event on China climate change activities.

2. Selection of Delegates

a. An exclusive network of 100 Western and Chinese delegates will form the initial network. "Convenors" will help select these delegates.

b. Delegates should be motivated to learn more about China, within China, and are active on the global stage.

c. Delegates should be advisors to the trusted advisors of policy makers who can decide nations’ low carbon development paths. Delegates should be extremely influential in trade, policy, or business and on the rise in their sphere of influence. These advisors are not necessarily well-versed on sustainability but may be from:

i. Public and private finance

ii. Journalists of high standing and integrity (eg James Naughtie of Today)

iii. Military – pro-green, retired iv. High profile investors, business leaders (eg Richard Branson) v. Upperclass with a purpose (eg younger Royals, Ben Goldsmith) vi. Executives of cross-border businesses, even fossil fuels, that affect low carbon development in trading partner nations vii. Trade, Treasury d. Locale: Delegates may be from these countries i. The US and China are the largest emitters and energy users. ii. Countries with rising carbon emissions trajectory (India) iii. Significant trading partners with China (Australia, Brazil)

iv. Countries that China wants to deploy significant capital. (UK) v. Sustainability leaders who can help China. (Germany) e. Attitude: Delegates should have an open mind and friendly disposition; are trustworthy, straight-talkers, pragmatic problem solvers versus idealistic; who live on the basis of appreciation not comparison; are trusted to make their own judgments on where China stands on sustainability; are highly influential on the national or international stage; can be both teachers and learners; can share with China what successes (and mistakes) China can learn from.