Unfortunately, China's president had to dash home to suppress ethnic riots. Had he stayed in Italy at the recent Group of Eight summit, he could have continued the Herculean task of disabusing Barack Obama of his amazingly durable belief, shared by the U.S. Congress, that China -- and India, Brazil, Mexico and other developing nations -- will sacrifice their modernization on the altar of climate change. China has a more pressing agenda, and not even suppressing riots tops the list.
China made this clear in June, when its vice premier said, opaquely, that China will "actively" participate in climate change talks on a basis of "common but differentiated responsibility." The meaning of that was made clear three days later, at a climate change conference in Bonn, where a Chinese spokesman reiterated that his country's priority is economic growth: "Given that, it is natural for China to have some increase in its emissions, so it is not possible for China in that context to accept a binding or compulsory target." That was redundant: In January, China announced that its continuing reliance on coal as its primary source of energy will require increasing coal production 30 percent in the next six years.