Richard Smith holds a PhD from the History Department at the University of California Los Angeles with a thesis on the contradictions of market socialism in China and held post-docs at the East–West Center, Honolulu, and Rutgers University. He is a co-founder and editor of His writings can be found at

Why China Cannot Decarbonise

This essay argues that regardless of President Xi Jinping’s stated intentions, China cannot meet its carbon-neutral pledge. First, there are insuperable technical barriers to decarbonising the ‘hard-to-abate’ industries that account for about half of China’s carbon dioxide emissions. Second, there are insuperable political barriers posed by Xi’s overriding concern to save the Chinese Communist Party from the fate of the Soviet Communist Party by winning the race to technical supremacy and overtaking the United States to become the world’s top superpower. To this end, he has no choice but to maximise the growth of the very industries that are driving China’s emissions off the charts.

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