Thucydides Trap in the Sustainability World???

In recent months, we have been seeing many press reports around US-China trade war quoting the famous Game Theory “Tit-for-Tat” as tactics adopted by President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping. Also, politicians and journalists and media around the world are increasingly worried about the world falling into the “Thucydides Trap”, a deadly trap first identified by the ancient Greek historian Thucydides. As he explained, “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” The past 500 years have seen 16 cases in which a rising power threatened to challenge a ruling one. 12 of these ended in war.

Before the real war happens, we already saw a “Cold War” happening in the sustainability world partly around the Paris Agreement.

Many people think the campaign around the Chinese Government stepping up its efforts in addressing global warming is a successful one. Since President Obama and President Xi Jinping signed the Paris Agreement in September 2016, the Chinese Government has undertaken the following green and sustainability initiatives: (a) conducted central environmental inspections, carried out guidelines to control air, water and soil pollution, published its own plans to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and is implementing a national plan to tackle the climate change; (b) betting big on the long-term benefits of solar power. After doubling the number of solar panels in 2016, China’s overall solar power capacity is now twice as large as that of the United States. The Chinese Government plans to spend RMB 2.5 trillion on renewables by 2020, an investment that is projected to create 13 million jobs in China; (c) China’s CO2 emissions for 2017 has marked the fourth consecutive year of declining emissions; (d) become the world’s largest green bond issuer.

When Liu He (Vice Premier of the Chinese Government) attended the World Economic Forum at Davos in January 2018, he earmarked three strategic priorities for the Chinese Government. These include: 1) preventing and resolving the major risks, 2) conducting targeted poverty reduction, and 3) controlling pollution.

These campaign (supplemented by seamless execution and real actions) over the past 27 months has won the Chinese Government significant credibility in front of the global community. Today, more people start to think China is at the forefront (globally) in pushing for sustainability and green.

On the contrary, Trump is doing exactly the opposite. Since becoming the 45th President of the US on 20 January 2017, Trump has announced the following anti-sustainability policies: (a) pulled out of the historic Paris Agreement; (b) announced new greenhouse gas regulations for coal-fired power plants – relaxing pollution rules for power plants that need upgrades, while allowing individual states to decide how, or even whether, to curb carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants; (c) openly condemning the renewable energy sector. According to the Washington Post, Trump’s plan would “release at least 12 times the amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere compared with the Obama rule over the next decade.”

Overall, Trump’s energy campaign has attracted intense criticisms. 

Let’s hope the drama played out by the two opposing campaigners will net-net favor a sustainable development of a Beautiful Planet in 2019!  Fingers crossed!

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