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Climate justice with Chinese characteristics?


China’s latest grand concept, the Global Development Initiative (GDI), claims to be making sustainability a key feature of the programme.

Since joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, China has regularly unveiled a grand new strategic concept every four years or so.

Each has been deeply rooted in the Chinese political system and communicated via ambitious slogans, such as A Harmonious World, or New Types of Great Power Relations. And all have reliably generated both excitement and confusion abroad and within China.

China’s latest grand concept, the Global Development Initiative (GDI), is no exception. When Chinese president Xi Jinping introduced it at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2021, it made hardly any splash in the West, perhaps because China has already signalled its determination to shape international development in the post-COVID era.

But the GDI is more than just a new label for an ongoing project. One of its core political functions is to deflect some of the fierce criticism directed at its older sibling, the gigantic Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has a tarnished reputation for being neither transparent nor sufficiently ‘green’.

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