Foreign media on China
Posted by Alice Xin Liu on Friday, December 25, 2009 at 2:30 PM
Jonathan Watts; photo courtesy of the journalist
The Guardian's Jonathan Watts reported on Japan for seven years before taking up his post in Beijing in August 2003.
His career includes coverage of the Asian financial crisis 1997-98, the G8 summit in Okinawa in 2000, the South Korea-Japan World Cup 2002, the Tsunami disaster in 2005, the Sichuan earthuake and the Beijing Olympics of 2008.
Watts was a contributor to Mother Jones, The Christian Science Monitor, The South China Morning Post, The New Statesman and The Asahi Shimbun, as well as contributing to TV.
He is currently putting the finishing touches on a book about the environment, When a Billion Chinese Jump and working as The Guardian's first Asia Environment Correspondent.
Danwei asked Watts some questions about Copenhagen, the media backlash against China following its close, and the environment reporting projects that he has been conducting, and doing as part of a team.
Danwei: Were you optimistic before taking off for the Copenhagen summit?
Danwei: At which point － before or during Copenhagen － did you realize that the climate accord was going to freeze Europe out and as Miliband said, be "hijacked by a group of countries"?
Danwei: What's your opinion concerning the outcome?
On a broader, more hopeful note, the build-up to Copenhagen focused unprecedented attention on climate change. It has forced nations to set targets. We do have a deal of sorts and a greater commitment of funds. Now leaders need to learn from the chaos of the conference and find a new way forward. Building trust will be essential. There was
Danwei: What are your plans now after reporting on Copenhagen for The Guardian?
Danwei: Have you been proud of any one particular article that you've done for
The biggest project of the year, though, was a "Climate Frontline" interactive project I did before Copenhagen with Swiss photographers Mathias braschler and Monica Fischer.
The Guardian invested heavily in this eight-month, 16-nation multimedia project, which tried to show the human face of climate change. I joined for a part of the trip and took some video of Mongolians affected by a dried-up lake in Hebei, Russians whose homes are sinking into the melting Siberian permafrost and Thai swamp dwellers who are losing their homes and livelihoods to rising tides and temperatures.
Danwei: A bit of media speculation frenzy has been caused by Mark Lynas' article published in The Guardian, where he claims that China refused to agree on targets and intentionally humiliated Obama during Copenhagen's final meetings. Should we trust his account or just see it as one voice in a cacophony? What's your take?
Their plan had been for the Danish hosts to introduce a compromise deal at some point early in the talks. About a dozen countries, including China, India and Sudan, had been consulted about this in advance, according to one European negotiator. But this strategy collapsed when someone leaked the "Danish Draft" to my Guardian colleague John Vidal. Nations that were not part of the consultation were furious. The authority of the chair was undermined. From then on, the talks ground to a halt. Almost the entire two weeks was wasted as a result.
Was China to blame? Well, there is no smoking gun. The killing of the Danish draft served the interests not only of China, but also other nations such as India that were determined to block any proposal that might constrain their future growth. Nonetheless, China was repeatedly cited as the main obstacle, particularly on the final day. While Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and a core group of leaders from about thirty nations or regions tried to hammer out a deal, Wen Jiabao sent officials in his place. This was primarily a defensive tactic. He did not want to be strongarmed into a deal. Those negotiators choked almost every numerical target.
Three European negotiators confirmed to me that Chinese negotiators not only blocked targets for themselves, but also a target proposed by Angela Merkel for developed nations to trim emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
I found that disturbing and perplexing. Was China doing this because it will be a developed nation by mid-century? I would like to hear China's explanation, but its delegates have been very quiet since the end of the conference.
Danwei: Could you tell us a little about your book, to be published in June?
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Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
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