If anything scares China’s formidable president, Xi Jinping, it’s probably democracy. The idea of the Chinese people choosing their own president must be nightmarish to the new emperor. His current suppression of democracy in Hong Kong is testament to his intolerance of any such notions among the masses. Indeed, he has trouble with anyone thinking differently, anyone thinking what in his opinion isn’t sufficiently “Chinese.” The horrors of the Orwellian indoctrination he is inflicting on the Uighurs in Xinjiang are testament to that.

So how do we deal with this adversary of democracy and violator of human rights, this man who, in effect, is China?

We might prefer to simply keep our distance while quietly opposing his influence in the world. But of course we cannot keep our distance. For a number of reasons. The integration of trade in this globalized world alone makes that impossible.

We had a similar confrontation with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Then the ultimate challenge was to maintain adequate rapport to avoid mutually annihilating each other with nuclear war. That challenge exists with China as well, but there is now an even more complex challenge. That, of course, is global warming.

Global warming is the biggest threat humanity faces and China, the world’s biggest polluter, is the world’s biggest contributor to that threat. I hasten to add that the individual Chinese are not in themselves the biggest threat. After all, people pollute, not countries, and the average Canadian is responsible for over twice the greenhouse gas emissions as the average Chinese. But China does have the most people, i.e. the most polluters. That places great responsibility on its government, i.e on Xi Jinping.

Without Xi’s total commitment, the fight against global warming is lost. We are faced, therefore, wth a huge diplomatic challenge: co-operate with a totalitarian regime or face catastrophe.

Our diplomacy faces perhaps its greatest challenge ever. And it better succeed. The future of global civilization itself is at stake.

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