China on Reducing Its Carbon Footprint: Why Should We Have to?

BEIJING -- Ambassador Yu Qingtai is China's point man on global warming. As special representative to the climate change talks for China's ministry of foreign affairs, Yu is a forceful advocate for China's view that while his country will do its part, the primary responsibility for fixing the problem rests squarely on the shoulders of the United States and other industrialized countries. And he bristles when reminded that many US experts put on the onus on China's rapidly growing economy and industrial might.

"There were those who came to China years ago and described us as a kingdom of bicycles," he says, when I mention some of that criticism. We're sitting in a conference room at the foreign ministry, where Yu has come to be questioned by a small group of journalists invited to Beijing by the Chinese People's Institute for Foreign Affairs. As China modernizes, he says, every Chinese citizen has the right to all of the modern industrial and transportation options enjoyed by, say, Americans – including the right to own a car. "We should not be expected to stay forever as a kingdom of bicycles!" he says.

He has a point.

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