Understanding China’s political will to further conservation and sustainability

Northern Arizona University Press Release

In a first of it’s kind study, researchers from Northern Arizona University examined the core beliefs of the Chinese government, aiming to uncover opportunities to slow climate change by leveraging Beijing’s political will for sustainability and conservation gains.

Image of the Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China

With one of the fastest-growing economies and the largest human population, China is arguably the world’s most influential country. Understanding Chinese political will could mean learning how to navigate the powerhouse and, most importantly, how to leverage its influence for good.

Recently published in People and Nature, a new case study, brought together researchers from China, the U.S., Japan, Australia, Canada, the UK and South Africa, all of whom share a common goal of learning more about the Chinese government.

“We need to cooperate with China to find effective solutions to climate change.”

Lead author of the study, Dr Hubert Cheung believes it is crucial to understand the motivations behind Beijing’s decision making, especially in regards to biodiversity conservation. He said “We need to cooperate with China if we are to find effective solutions to climate change, for illegal wildlife trade, for sustainability transitions.”

Image of Chinese skyline at night
Image of Beijing skyline

The investigation the researchers undertook was a long process of discovery, bringing together conservation and political science to give people everywhere a more structured understanding of the motivations behind China’s decisions, both in regard to environmental issues and beyond.

“Understanding the political agendas of decision-makers enables conservationists to identify where political will already exists and allows environmental objectives to piggyback on the motivation to deliver results.” explains Dr Cheung.

Image of the presidential palace of China
The presidential palace in jiangsu, China

Although it is difficult to predict the future of China, many of the Chinese leadership’s core strategic interests present in the study can be observed in the high-level decisions being made today.

“The world is becoming an increasingly divided and polarized place,” Cheung said. “Hopefully, by understanding each other a little bit better, we can find ways to work together more effectively and find lasting solutions to the big environmental challenges we are facing.”

Read the article here for free, for a limited time:

Cheung, H.Feng, Y. P.Hinsley, A.Lee, T. M.Possingham, H. P.Smith, S. N.Thomas-Walters, L.Wang, Y., & Biggs, D. (2022). Understanding China’s political will for sustainability and conservation gainsPeople and Nature001– 12https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10425