China faces a number of impressive challenges in dealing with climate change: rising energy use, growing emission levels of greenhouse gases, dangerous levels of air pollution over cities and low resilience against flood and drought. Sustainable urbanization has been adopted as a keyword in handling these challenges. The Chinese central government has undertaken a variety of measures, including the launch of large Sino-European programs to learn from ‘developed nations’. In the wake of these partnerships, a great variety of cross-national and cross-city agreements were signed. Sino-European cooperation does not often run as smoothly as initially hoped because of diverging interests, cultural misunderstandings and practical limitations. In the background, a mismatch in normative conceptions Chinese and European participants have of ‘good governance’ plays a role. In this contribution, insights taken from Montesquieu’s ‘The Spirit of Laws’ regarding checks and balances and trias politica (updated to ‘sextas politica’ for the 21st century) are used to comprehend how the exertion of power is distributed and expected to be distributed differently in Chinese than in European administrative traditions. The article will end with conclusions on how European misconceptions of Chinese governance complicate Sino-European collaboration in sustainable urbanization policies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number151
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Research areas

  • sustainable urbanization, Sino-European collaboration, Montesquieu, checks and balances, sextas politica, OA-Fund TU Delft

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