Wei Su and Xie Zhenhua

Representing the world's largest emitter

Veteran negotiator Xie Zhenhua took a back seat early this year, potentially making Wei Su – previously second in command for China’s climate negotiations team – leader of his country’s delegation in Paris. But despite his official retirement, Xie Zhenhua will still be Special Representative for Climate Change, so it is unclear what role he will play in December.

Before joining the climate negotiations in 2008, Wei Su worked at the Department of Treaties and Law at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Both Wei Su and Xie Zhenhua were at the failed talks in Copenhagen. But the recent US-China climate deal, despite not containing any significant emissions cuts, signals that China is ready to engage productively in climate diplomacy.

China is a strong and vocal advocate of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC) – one of the major principles under the 1992 UN climate convention. Based on this principle, China has been demanding that rich countries take a proactive role to reduce emissions. However, developed countries interpret ‘common’ as meaning all – that everyone should come up with commitments, and they point the finger at China as the largest emitter globally – even having outstripped Europe’s per capita emissions.