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US Climate Envoy John Kerry Holds Talks with Chinese Officials to Improve Relations

by Joshua Brown
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diplomatic relations

John Kerry, the climate envoy for the United States, met with Chinese officials in Beijing in an effort to stabilize the strained relationship between the world’s two largest economies. He assured China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, that the Biden administration is fully committed to this goal and hopes to work together with China to make a significant impact on the global stage.

The relationship between the two countries has reached a historic low point due to disagreements over tariffs, technology access, human rights, and China’s threats towards Taiwan, which is self-governing.

During the discussions, Wang acknowledged the lack of communication between the two sides and expressed China’s belief that through renewed dialogue, they can find suitable solutions to any issues. He emphasized the importance of conducting these discussions on an equal basis, likely referring to U.S. criticism of China’s aggressive foreign policy, human rights abuses against minority groups, and travel sanctions imposed on Chinese officials.

China had suspended some mid- and high-level contacts with the Biden administration, including climate-related discussions, since last August, as a response to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. China considers Taiwan as its own territory and has threatened to use force to bring it under its control, potentially leading to a major conflict with the U.S. in a region crucial to the global economy.

John Kerry’s visit to China follows the trips made by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in recent weeks to meet their counterparts. Kerry expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to improve the relationship between the two countries and reiterated President Biden’s commitment to stability and making a positive impact on the world.

Kerry also had a courtesy meeting with Premier Li Qiang, the party’s second-ranking official, who highlighted the need for closer cooperation between China and the U.S. in addressing the significant challenge of global warming. No meeting has been scheduled with President Xi Jinping, and China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang has been absent from public view for three weeks.

The outcome of Kerry’s extensive face-to-face climate discussions with China’s representative, Xie Zhenhua, held on Monday, has not been disclosed yet. These talks mark the first significant discussions on climate issues between the world’s two largest climate polluters in almost a year.

China is currently the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal and continues to build new coal plants that contribute substantial amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. However, China is also expanding its use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. The country has pledged to peak its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. The U.S. and the European Union have urged China to adopt more ambitious emission reduction targets.

Both China and the U.S. have experienced extreme heatwaves and other adverse effects of climate change. U.S. lawmakers have criticized China for its reluctance to make significant reductions in fossil fuel emissions, while China argues that it is still a developing economy with lower per capita pollution and should be exempt from the same climate standards as developed Western nations.

Despite President Biden and President Xi Jinping’s previous interactions, including meetings as vice presidents and at the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia, no state visits or plans for future face-to-face meetings have been announced due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about diplomatic relations

What is the purpose of the meeting between US climate envoy John Kerry and Chinese officials?

The purpose of the meeting is to improve the strained relations between the US and China and to discuss various issues such as tariffs, technology, human rights, and tensions regarding Taiwan. The focus of the discussions is also on climate change and fostering cooperation in that area.

Why have US-China relations hit a historic low?

US-China relations have deteriorated due to disagreements over several matters, including tariffs, access to technology, human rights concerns, and China’s threats towards Taiwan. These issues have contributed to the strained relationship between the two countries.

What is the significance of John Kerry’s visit to China?

John Kerry’s visit as the US climate envoy holds significance as it highlights the importance of addressing climate change and seeking cooperation between the two largest economies. It aims to foster dialogue and find common ground on climate-related issues, which is crucial for global efforts to combat climate change.

Has there been any progress in the discussions between the US and China on climate issues?

The outcome of the extensive face-to-face climate discussions between John Kerry and China’s representative, Xie Zhenhua, has not been disclosed yet. However, the talks mark an important step in resuming climate-related discussions between the world’s two largest climate polluters after a yearlong hiatus.

What are some areas of disagreement between the US and China regarding climate change?

One area of disagreement is China’s continued reliance on coal, as it leads the world in coal production and consumption. The US and the European Union have urged China to adopt more ambitious reduction targets. Additionally, China argues for different standards as a developing economy, while US lawmakers criticize China for not making larger cuts in climate-damaging emissions.

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