This research has examined the leadership role(s) of China in multilateral climate change negotiations since the Paris agreement. China was regarded as a pivotal actor in the Paris negotiations and, therefore, seen as a potential leader in this climate change regime. The aim of this research has been to determine whether China can be considered a legitimate leader and to investigate how they exercise leadership. By analyzing the behavior and actions of China through the lens of two leadership models, this research concluded that China is not a legitimate leader in the climate change regime. The reason for this is that China is not a reliable instrumental or directional leader. As a result, China has not acquired consent from the developed countries in the negotiations. China does, however, assume another leadership role. The actor is a consistent ideational, instrumental, and structural leader in the group of developing countries. China provides positive incentives to these countries, unites their demands, and defends their interests. One of China’s aims is to grant flexibility and sovereignty to these weaker actors and empower them. This demonstrates that China is aiming to support the developing countries and acquire their consent. Therefore, the purpose of this leadership role is to realize win-win outcomes. However, it is also likely that China aims to gain influence and promote a positive image of itself. In the end, China remains a pivotal and decisive actor in the climate change regime.

Dr. Koen Stapelbroek, Dr. Darren McCauley
Public Administration
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Mees Struijk. (2021, June 25). China’s Leadership Role(s) in Climate Change Negotiations Post-Paris: A Behavioral Analysis. Public Administration. Retrieved from