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While the liberal and authoritarian politics of California and China are a study in contrasts, both places are taking a top-down approach to combating climate change by forcing a shift in energy and transportation. China, in fact, has modeled its electric car mandate on California’s program, following years of collaboration between officials on opposite sides of the Pacific.
“China has referenced and learned from California,” said Yunshi Wang, director of the China Center for Energy and Transportation at the University of California at Davis.
California Governor Jerry Brown met in China last year with President Xi Jinping. The talks focused on strategies to combat global warming and came shortly after President Donald Trump said the U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate accord. The ties between political leaders in China and California are all the more striking at a time when Washington and Beijing are on the cusp of a trade war.
Brown’s approach to energy policy may soon come under fire from the Trump administration, which is considering revoking California’s ability to set its own auto-emissions standards. U.S. automakers are trying to broker a compromise between California and Washington, worried that potential legal battles could lead to years of uncertainty regarding pollution-control policies. California, as the biggest auto market, tends to shape national policy; New York and several additional states that account for a third of U.S. vehicle sales have adopted California’s standards.
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