No. 19 | 07.11.2021
China’s “latecomer advantage” in achieving carbon neutrality
Li Junfeng
Li Junfeng (李俊峰) is former director of National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation

A week before the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, China submitted its climate targets and implementation plans to the UN. The country aims to reach CO2 emissions peak by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Many people, however, remain skeptical about whether China will be able to fulfill its commitments. Li Junfeng believes that the country will meet its targets. Since 2006, China has implemented effective carbon reduction measures, such as the "dual control" policy of reducing energy intensity and consumption with key performance indicators for all levels of regional governments. In 2013, the majority of provinces saw a slower carbon emission growth, except for six provinces and autonomous regions, including Ningxia, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia. With a two percent annual growth rate of emissions, these regions accounted for 70 percent of China's total increase in emissions. Although China's coal consumption rebounded between 2017 and 2019, the growth rate of annual average carbon emissions has been slowing down, dropping from 12.7 percent in the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-2005) to 1.7 percent during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020). Continuing this trend, China would be able to reach peak emissions by 2025. Furthermore, Li states that China has "latecomer's advantage" (后发优势 hòu fā yōushì), meaning that it needs to reach a lower peak per capita level and can enjoy lower-cost new energy technologies compared with developed countries that peaked earlier. For example, the US reached its peak emission in 2007 with nearly 20 tonnes emissions per capita, which is twice as much as China (10 tonnes per capita in 2019). Moreover, the cost of non-fossil energy in China, especially renewable energy, has fallen significantly and has become more competitive – the unit cost of photovoltaic cells, which are devices that convert sunlight into energy, fell by more than 80% since 2010. The conditions for grid parity – when the cost of clean energy matches that of conventional energy sources – are already in place in most regions. Meanwhile, China has maintained the advantage of having the most electric vehicles in the world. Together, these factors will help China achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

How China responds to the US’s support of Taiwan’s participation in the “UN system”
Tian Feilong
Tian Feilong (田飞龙) is associate professor at the School of Advanced Studies/Law School, Beihang University

Recently, the US has been increasing its provocations regarding Taiwan, challenging China’s national sovereignty, security, and development interests. Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared support of Taiwan's participation in the "United Nations system.” According to Tian Feilong, the US is using its hegemony to fight for the island’s supposed international legal rights and has shown intentions of reversing “Resolution 2758.” Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1971, this Resolution confirmed the legitimacy of the People’s Republic of China as the sole representative of the Chinese people – formerly held by the “Republic of China” in Taiwan – and classified the Taiwan issue as an internal matter within China's sovereignty. From the legal perspective of the Civil War, the Kuomintang-led Republic of China had lost its legitimacy in 1949 when it retreated to Taiwan after its defeat by the Communist Party of China. In terms of China-US relations and US hegemony, the “Three Joint Communiqués” ( issued in 1972, 1978, and 1982) were foundational to re-establishing stable relations between the two countries. Issued by both sides, the Communiqués established the “One China” policy (一个中国 yīgè zhōngguó). However, to interfere with Taiwan affairs and prevent cross-strait reunification, the US imposed illegal long-arm jurisdiction and “quasi-colonial” control of the island through domestic legislation, such as the Taiwan Relations Act (1979). As a result, the consensus established by the Communiqués and the core “One China” principle were weakened and suppressed in the US legal system. Tian points out that the “peaceful reunification and one country, two systems” (和平统一,一国两制 hépíng tǒngyī, yīguóliǎngzhì) is China’s consistent and best solution to the Taiwan issue. If the domestic and international conditions are met, Taiwan can explore this solution based on the Hong Kong model. However, the author is not optimistic about this solution. If the island insists on seeking “Taiwan independence” and if the US keeps playing the “Taiwan card” to extreme Cold War ends, the time will come when the Taiwan issue breaks down.

China’s next challenge: from food security to food supply security
Chen Xiwen
Chen Xiwen (陈锡文) is member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, chairperson of the Agriculture and Rural Committee of the National People’s Congress

China has placed great importance on ensuring grain self-sufficiency and absolute security of staple food (口粮绝对安全 kǒuliáng juéduì ānquán). For six consecutive years, China's total annual grain production remained above 650 million tonnes (2015-2020) and the per capita output exceeded 470 kg, well above the international food safety line (400kg/capita). However, according to Chen Xiwen, the country's dependence on the international markets for key food products remains high. For example, over 30 percent of sugar, beef, and milk and 70 percent of edible oil are imported. As a country with a large population, China's reliance on food imports poses a variety of risks. Last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, 18 countries restricted exports of food and other agricultural products, impacting the global supply chain and causing significant price fluctuations. Since China has become a moderately prosperous society(全面小康社会quánmiàn xiǎokāng shèhuì), Chen proposes that the concept of "food security" (粮食安全 liángshí ānquán) should be expanded into the more comprehensive concept of "food supply security" (食物供给安全 shíwù gōngjǐ ānquán). The country should improve its own food supply capacity especially in important staples, such as grain, oil, and sugar. Firstly, China should strictly adhere to the minimum arable land of 1.8 billion mu (120 million hectares) set by the government's "red line" policy. The country's arable land currently stands at 1.92 billion mu (128 million hectares), but has decreased by 113 million mu (7.5 million hectares) in the past ten years. To improve agricultural yield levels, China should promote seed industry innovation and progress in agricultural science and technology. For example, China's corn yield of 6.32 tonnes per hectare (2020) is 9.3% higher than the world average of 5.78 tonnes, but remains much lower than the United States, Brazil, and Argentina. Meanwhile, the author recognizes that China cannot rely on domestic resources alone to feed 18 percent of the world's population with only 9 percent of total arable land. Therefore, establishing a stable and secure international food supply chain is an inevitable and necessary choice.

Life and happiness of young renters in China’s megacities
Xiang Jun
Xiang Jun (项军) is a lecturer of School of Sociology and Political Science, Shanghai University. Xiang specializes in studies of social class and mobility, social mentality, and economic sociology.

Solving housing problems in big cities is a major priority of the Chinese government this year. Xiang Jun analyzes the working and living conditions and social mentality of three types of renters based on a 2019 survey of over 4,000 people in ten megacities. The first group of renters (26 percent) includes those who have local household registration (户口 hùkǒu), the system that registers each Chinese person's official place of permanent residency. This group has the highest satisfaction, job stability, and level of happiness. The other two groups are mainly comprised of renters born after the 1980s and 1990s who have not obtained local household registration. One group of renters (45 percent) is made up of university-educated(大学以上dàxué yǐshàng) people earning upper-middle incomes (US$18,750/year per capita), working as professionals, technical personnel, and white-collar workers. However, their job satisfaction, living conditions, and consumption levels are lower than that of homeowners. With rent accounting for the largest part of household expenditure and the heavy financial burden of caring for parents, this group of renters have to limit their own cultural consumption and spending on their children's education. As a result, their sense of social fairness and happiness is generally low. The third group (29 percent) includes non-local residents with a relatively lower level of education (below university level大学以下dàxué yǐxià) and income (less than US$15,626/year per capita), including delivery and construction workers. They have the lowest job stability, the worst working environment and living conditions, and feel a stronger rejection by locals than the other groups. Though contributing greatly to the life enjoyed by local urban residents, this group remains the most vulnerable. The author suggests that the government should implement more equitable policies and provide more public resources and services for these two rental groups in order to reduce stress in their lives and improve their well-being and sense of belonging.

The historical legacy of the Chinese Soviet Republic on its 90th anniversary
Luo Huilan
Luo Huilan (罗惠兰) is a professor at the Party School of the Jiangxi Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China
Zheng Yanming
Zheng Yanming (郑炎明) is the deputy secretary of the Party Committee and president of Jiangxi Youth Vocational College

November 7th of this year marks the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Soviet Republic (中华苏维埃共和国 zhōnghuá sūwéi'āi gònghéguó) in the southeast province of Jiangxi. Luo Huilan and Zheng Yanming point out that the establishment of the Soviet marked the first time the political rule of the Communist Party of China (CPC) took the form of a state. The economic, democratic, and cultural achievements of this period served as a preview of the CPC’s future governance of the country. The Soviet Republic creatively formulated a series of effective economic policies that prioritized agricultural production in economic construction, ensured that the government did not have a monopoly on grain trading nor interfere in the commodity market, and promoted the development of the private economy according to the Soviet’s needs. During the Civil War, the achievements in economic construction helped safeguard its operations against the encirclement campaigns (围剿战争 wéijiǎo zhànzhēng, 1930-1934) launched by the Kuomintang. The Soviet Republic was not only able provide supplies for 100,000 Red Army troops but also improved the lives of the people. Furthermore, the legal theory and practice of this period laid the foundation for the legal system of New China. In just three years after its establishment, the Soviet Republic had enacted over 130 laws and regulations. Among them was the Constitutional Outline (宪法大纲 xiànfǎ dàgāng) – the first declaration of people's rights in Chinese history – that placed the protection of national sovereignty against imperialism as the first priority. Secondly, to safeguard people's right to live, the Soviet government carried out agrarian reform and enacted a land law to guarantee subsistence for landless peasants. Labor laws were also implemented to protect the rights of workers, while political reforms guaranteed universal suffrage and equal rights regardless of gender, religion, or ethnicity. Luo recognizes that the laws and regulations enacted during the mid and late stages of the Soviet Republic were affected by some left-leaning errors (左倾错误 zuǒqīng cuòwù). However, the government’s achievements in ensuring the rights to subsistence, democracy, culture, education, and gender equality for the overwhelming majority should not be underestimated.

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