The post-Copenhagen saliva fights between countries are getting more curious – and fascinating – than the conference itself. The Guardian piece by Mark Lynas that has been widely circulated and commented upon, "How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room," sounds a bit too angry to be completely trusted, but it does highlight two questions for me:
1) Why did
not only refuse emission targets for itself, but also block targets some developed nations offered to commit to? China
2) Why did premier Wen Jiabao skip the final session of the conference, on the evening of Dec. 18th, when about 30 country leaders, including Obama, tried to hammer out a deal?
Mark Lynas' conclusion was that
's representative "intentionally humiliated Barack Obama," and also intentionally wrecked the deal. To what end? Lynas does not say. China
On the other hand, Danwei's interview with The Guardian's
correspondent, Jonathan Watts, provides a more objective and interesting perspective. To the first question above, Beijing Watts wonders if it's because will be a developed nation by mid-century. (I'm not sure what exactly the criteria are for developed nation, but in terms of average income, China still has a long way to go. China 's GDP might be high, but its low-income population is also high. In recent years, there have been increasing complaints on the sharp contrast between "poor people" and "rich country" in China .) As to Wen's absence at the final meeting, China Watts says "This was primarily a defensive tactic. He did not want to be strongarmed into a deal." This seemed to me a more reasonable interpretation.
Watts, I wanted to hear 's explanation. My digging discovered a detailed report about premier Wen's activities during his two-day trip in China . The report was published in Beijing Evening News on Christmas Day, apparently reacting to Mark Lynas' angry criticism. The article cites its source as the Xinhua news agency, but I did not find it on xinhuanet.com. Copenhagen
What's interesting about the Chinese report is not its defense of Wen (which is to be expected), but a few almost unknown details. The report on Wen's timetable in
ends right before the final evening session that Wen skipped, thus avoiding any explanation as to why that happened. As if to forge indirect counter-criticism, the article cites the following strange incidents: Copenhagen
- On the evening of December 17th, when premier Wen attended a banquet hosted by
’s Queen, he accidentally learned from another guest that, after the banquet, "some country" was to hold a small-range meeting that had Denmark on its list of attendees, however China had not been informed of the meeting. Wen left the banquet immediately to handle this and then sent a representative to protest the calling country's "ulterior motivation." (Which country was that? The report does not say.) China
- At of the 18th, Wen arrived at the site for a leadership meeting that was supposed to begin at . However neither the host country nor the UN Secretary General was present, the stage was empty. The meeting did not start until . (So what is the report saying? That Wen was unfairly held up for one hour and 45 minutes, and Obama was not the only one left waiting?)
- At Friday afternoon, when Wen and other BASIC Four countries were meeting, Obama suddenly pushed the door open and surprised everyone. "Obama also felt [he was] a bit blunt," the report describes. "Standing one foot inside and one outside of the door, Obama asked with a smile, 'Premier Wen, am I too early? Should I wait for you outside, or join your discussion?'" Then Wen "politely welcomed him to join," and "Obama was moved" by this. The report says it was this meeting, apparently right before the final evening conference that Wen skipped, that hammered out the final agreement.
These details only added to my puzzlement. I searched English reports for further explanation, and found an article from the Washington Post on Sunday, Dec. 20, which provides another version about what happened when Obama unexpectedly entered the BASIC Four meeting room:
At one point in Friday's tense talks, for instance,
's top climate change negotiator exploded in rage at China pressure after Obama walked in on the Chinese while they were holding talks with the Indians, South Africans and Brazilians. After Obama asked whether the Chinese could commit to listing their climate targets in an international registry, Xie Zhenhua launched into a tirade, pointing his finger at the U.S. president. U.S.
Wen instructed his Chinese interpreter not to translate Xie's fiery remarks. When Xie erupted again, Wen, who was chairing the meeting, ignored him. After Wen handed Obama a draft text of an agreement that included verification language Obama couldn't abide by, the two men led a lengthy debate that ended in a working compromise, sources said.
Very curious. Xie seemed very rude, not only to Obama, but also to Wen.
Note the contrast in reporting between the Beijing Evening News and the
Post: the former emphasizes the Chinese premier's politeness towards Obama's sudden entrance, but avoids mentioning anything about Xie' rudeness, which the Washington Post focuses on. Washington
Beyond that, I have been unable to find English reports on the other incidents mentioned in the Chinese report. And I'm still looking for explanations as to why
did not let any developed nations set their own emission targets. China