In the U.S., California has long been viewed culturally as the crazy, free-spirited cousin.

As Californians like to point out, their state of 40 million people is also the world's sixth-largest economy all by itself.

Resolutely progressive, it has regulated vehicle emissions for five decades and worked to get zero-emission vehicles onto its roads for more than 20 years.

DON'T MISS: How California and China will push for millions of zero-emission vehicles (Jun 2017)

Those efforts have been reflexively fought by the auto industry and by conservative business interests, though they now appear both prescient and necessary if the U.S. is to contribute to global reduction of the carbon-dioxide emissions that cause global warming.

This week alone, the state has indicated it will fight any efforts by the EPA and NHTSA under President Trump to alter regulations so new vehicles can emit more CO2 and offer lower fuel economy.

California's grueling efforts, it turns out, have been learned—and learned well—by a much larger entity.

National Plug-In Day 2012: San Francisco, with 60 Nissan Leafs in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

National Plug-In Day 2012: San Francisco, with 60 Nissan Leafs in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

That would be the national government of China, the world's largest country (at roughly 1.4 billion people) and largest vehicle market (at roughly 30 million vehicles sold last year).

Last Tuesday, Bloomberg looked at what China learned from California about how to bring about a sea change in the vehicles on its roads.

Or, as the article puts it, "A liberal bastion and an authoritarian government agree on how to help bring about the future of cars, with help from the state."

CHECK OUT: China plug-in electric vehicle sales in 2017: almost four times those in the U.S.

Both governments are taking, as the article notes, "a top-down approach to combating climate change by forcing a shift in energy and transportation."

Two examples are a cap-and-trade system of permits for companies to emit carbon dioxide to requirements for increasing numbers of zero-emission vehicles to be sold by carmakers.

Nationally, of course, the U.S. has none of those things.

BYD e6 electric taxi in service in Shenzhen, China

BYD e6 electric taxi in service in Shenzhen, China

The country has no coherent energy policy, and the Trump administration is laced with climate-science denialists who have canceled the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan and intend to freeze, roll back, or possibly eliminate emission limits and fuel-economy requirements.

In electric cars specifically, China modeled its mandate for sales of what it calls New Energy Vehicles on the zero-emission vehicle mandate underway in California since 2012, which ramps up the required sales each year starting with the current 2018 model year.

Last June, China and California announced the expansion of a 2014 initiative in which they have worked together to accelerate the deployment of zero-emission cars, trucks, and buses in both places.

READ THIS: Will US auto industry simply succumb to China over electric cars?

That partnership has worked within the China-US ZEV Policy Lab at the University of California, Davis.

California's goal is to have 5 million electric cars on its roads by 2030; China's is to see 7 million plug-in electric vehicles five years earlier, in 2025.

The two regions differ, however, in the challenges they face in keeping their policies on track. Unlike California, China does not appear to have a large opposing force working to stem or roll back its efforts to combat climate change.

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