President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement caused anger and anxiety across the world, with one major exception: China.
With the US stepping away from its role as a leader of the global fight against climate change, Beijing is already moving to fill the void, giving it a chance to benefit both diplomatically and economically.
It isn’t the first time Trump — who spent the campaign demonizing China — will have wound up giving Beijing a major chance to expand its standing on the world stage.
After Trump withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, China inserted itself into trade talks among other nations disappointed by America’s reversal. As Canada and Mexico have felt spurned by Trump during the runup to renegotiating NAFTA, China has emerged as a more reliable trading prospect.
This isn’t happening quietly behind the scenes: At China’s first appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Chinese President Xi Jinping chided the West for its flirtation with protectionism, and painted a picture of his country as a paragon of free trade and an inviting place for foreign investment.
Now, as the US pulls out of the global community’s effort to curb carbon emissions, China’s profile as a forward-looking world leader will only grow. It’s set to become closer to the US’s allies that feel abandoned by Trump’s recent actions, as well as take a more aggressive lead in building a green economy.