Applicability of leadership modes outside the negotiation framework: insights from China

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Drawing insights from a qualitative content analysis of China’s national climate reports between 2016 and 2019, this article examines the extent to which classical leadership typologies introduced by Oran Young, Arild Underdal, and Raino Malnes in the early 1990s have explanatory power outside of international climate negotiation frameworks. Mode by mode, we assess the strengths and weaknesses of four classical leadership modes—directional, ideational, instrumental, and structural—to grasp the manifestation of international climate leadership in a domestic context. While the analysis points out some substantial weaknesses in classical leadership modes, it indicates that China has taken consistent efforts to offer climate leadership in a domestic context. Given the huge gap between the leadership literature and the planetary reality; however, the article concludes that the key shortcoming of the leadership literature is that it tends to focus exclusively on the negotiation phase of international climate politics. Therefore, prospective studies on climate leadership have to pay more attention to the locus of leadership.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31(2023)
JournalMitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • China
  • Climate change
  • Climate leadership
  • Leadership
  • Leadership modes

Field of science

  • Environmental sciences
  • Business and management


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