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Power Transition and Collaboration in China

members of the new Politburo Standing Committee
From left, members of the new Politburo Standing Committee Zhang Gaoli, Liu Yunshan, Zhang Dejiang, Li Keqiang, Yu Zhengsheng and Wang Qishan meets journalists in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People Thursday Nov. 15, 2012. The seven-member Standing Committee, the inner circle of Chinese political power, was paraded in front of assembled media on the first day following the end of the 18th Communist Party Congress. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)













People around the world are closely watching leadership transition in the world’s two largest economies.  The re-election of the President of the United States and the emergence of the new government in China will certainly have substantial global implications. As the two nations share tremendous global influence, they must determine how to work with each other. However, tensions between the two nations remain.  China was a hot topic in the U.S. presidential campaign, mentioned 53 times in the presidential debates. Both President Obama and Governor Romney, had taken a tough stance during presidential debates and proposed to push China to “play by the rules”.

Regardless, the United States and China are highly interdependent. China is expected to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy within a decade. After two decades of rapid economic reforms and growth, China has pulled millions out of poverty and created a new middle class. Its global economic and political influence has increased substantially. The Chinese economy has been largely controlled by the government and fuelled by state-owned enterprises.

China’s President in waiting Xi Jinping shakes hands with US President Barack Obama

China’s rapid economic growth brings multiple challenges. The public sector alone cannot adequately address the range of challenges China will continually face. Issues such as inadequate infrastructure, environmental degradation, income disparity and limited human rights cannot be efficiently addressed without cross-sector-collaboration. These issues require cooperation with other governments across the globe and would benefit from the growth and involvement of a nonprofit sector.

Partnership across sectors is relatively new to China.  However, the growth of the private and nonprofit sectors will likely alter the significance of cross sector collaboration.. The number of nonprofits in China increased from 6,000 in 1999 to over half a million last year.  Collaboration across sectors began to surface in China at the beginning of this millennium. One such initiative is the Guangdong Environmental Partnership Program that was launched in 2007 by the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC),[1] an organization focused on helping communities around the world tackle environmental, economic and social challenges.[2]The Guangdong Environmental Partnership Program (the Partnership) was created to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health, and increase environmental accountability in the Guangdong Province of China, which is commonly referred to as the ‘factory of the world’.

The Partnership engages with NGOs, businesses and governments in activities that build skills, awareness and motivation to work collaboratively on environmental issues.

chinese factory workers assembly line

The Partnership hopes to instigate change in environmental and energy efficient practices across all sectors in Guangdong. The Partnership receives financial support from USAID through a Congressional earmark.[3] “This partnership harnesses both Chinese and American innovation with a common goal: to establish Guangdong as a regional leader in clean energy and sustainable growth,” said Olivier Carduner, the Director of USAID’s Regional Development Mission to China. [4]In addition to USAID, the Partnership engages with influential private sector companies and foundations that contribute finances and expertise to the success of the programs.

For the most part, the Chinese government is still reluctant to engage in cross-sector-partnerships on a large scale. The partnership policy environment, legal environment and regulations are not conducive to collaboration. The Chinese government needs multidimensional strategies to promote cross-sector-partnerships. Perhaps China’s power transition will bring new thinking about engaging nongovernmental entities.

Partners for Guangdong Environmental Partnership Program

In-coming President and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping,  is credited for economic reforms in 1992. Jinping’s reforms have resulted in two decades of unparalleled growth. For continued economic and social stability, it will be nteresting to see how he will engage China’s civil society. Civil society’s influence could increase through a greater role for nongovernmental agencies and the private sector in collaboration with government.

In spite of the differences, it is critical for future leaders of China and the United States to cooperate.  As a global leader, the United States can help by promoting cross-sector partnerships in China and global collaboration. Simultaneous leadership transition in both nations could bring an opportunity to help shape a viable political and economic viable future.


[1] “Guangdong Environmental Partnership Program”. USAID China. April 2010.

[2] “Who We Are”. Institute for Sustainable Communities webiste. Last accessed 10/20/11

[3] “Guangdong Environmental Partnership Program”. USAID China. April 2010

[4] “New US-China Initiative Promises to Transform Guangdong into Model for Green Development.” Institute for Sustainable Communities Press Release. 05/12/09


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