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International Public Opinion on China’s Climate Change Policies

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DOI: 10.4236/chnstd.2013.24027    4,546 Downloads   7,678 Views   Citations


With the emergence of a global public sphere and the revolution of global media, international public opinion has gained an intrinsic importance for effective multilateral cooperation. Global governance initiatives are subject to international public opinion, and climate change is the single most important global governance issue of our time. Tackling climate change requires a fundamental transformation of the global economy, with an emphasis on sustainable development. Due to its political and economic weight, China can push forward UN climate change negotiations, and can do so without compromising its national development goals (China’s National Climate Change Programme, 2007). China’s national policies are beyond what is required from developing nations, but international public opinion often perceives a different message. This paper holds that a national branding strategy will help convey China’s current efforts, allowing a better understanding among nations in order to break the climate change negotiations deadlock. This research merged perception analysis and public opinion surveys with mass media qualitative and quantitative analysis to gain a full insight into what the international climate change decision-makers, opinion-leaders and general public think about China’s position at the UNFCCC negotiations. As seen in the findings of the present research, the climate of opinion is unfavorable to China. Overall, the results show that China is perceived as a negative influence in the negotiations. China’s climate change efforts are being overlooked by international public opinion. But the reason lies in China’s current discourse, where climate change and the environment are always downplayed by the right to develop (D’Hooghe, 2011). According to China’s 12th Five Year Plan, the new path for the country is marked by its commitment to achieve growth through low carbon development, with a strong focus on addressing climate change and energy challenges (Shealy & Dorian, 2007). The results of this study show that the positive intentions and actions of the Chinese government aren’t being accurately perceived by public opinion. The empirical findings in this study provide a new understanding of one specific part of the overall image that the world has about China. Whilst this study did not confirm unequivocally that international public opinion directly determines the outcomes of international negotiations and foreign policy, it did partially substantiate the concept that there’s a correlation between China’s public declarations and actions, the negotiators declarations to the press, press coverage in general, the attitude of experts towards China, and the attitudes and perceptions of uninformed public towards China. The study concludes that China requires a country rebranding strategy, and presents solid data as to which areas China has to tackle. This paper can be a working base for the national branding strategy, but by no means intends to be a complete evaluation of China’s brand.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Benguiat, V. (2013). International Public Opinion on China’s Climate Change Policies. Chinese Studies, 2, 161-168. doi: 10.4236/chnstd.2013.24027.


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