In yet another chapter of the Cold War 2.0 waged between the two powers, Chinese Chancellor Wang Yi warned the US at a meeting on Wednesday (1) that political tensions between the countries could weaken cooperation efforts in the fight against climate changes.
According to a statement released by the Asian country’s foreign ministry, Wang told US climate envoy John Kerry at a meeting via video call that the joint efforts of both sides to combat global warming were an “oasis.”
“But around the oasis there is a desert, and the oasis could be deserted very soon,” he warned. “China-US climate cooperation cannot be separated from the broader environment of relations” between the two countries. Kerry is on an official trip to China.
The Americans, for their part, also in a statement published on the website of the embassy in China, limited themselves to saying that they remain committed to the fight against the climate crisis, “which must be dealt with seriously and urgently.” According to the text, Kerry urged Beijing to take additional steps to reduce emissions — the two powers lead the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
China, land in the middle
The US, which is trying to regain global leadership on the climate agenda after a four-year hiatus under Donald Trump’s government —which even pulled the country out of the Paris Agreement—, is trying to separate these issues from other disputes it has with China, such as trade, human rights and the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On different occasions, Washington has cited the crackdown on the Uighur minority in Xinjiang province and on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, issues that Beijing considers to be internal issues.
The appearance of the coronavirus, on the other hand, appears in President Joe Biden’s speech. Although the Democrat does not use the term “Chinese virus” like his predecessor, last Friday (27) he accused the Xi Jinping government of withholding crucial information to understand the origin of the virus.
The Asian country was also remembered by the president in a statement about the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, on Tuesday (31). “The world is changing. We are engaged in serious competition with China. We are dealing with challenges with Russia. A president’s main mission is not to protect America from the threats of 2001, but from the threats of 2021 and tomorrow.” he said.
As part of the US effort to return to a leading role in the fight against the climate crisis, Kerry is in Tianjian to meet in person with Xie Zhenhua, her Chinese counterpart, and discuss cooperation between the two countries in this regard.
For Wang, by the way, Beijing’s willingness for a tête-à-tête shows its “sincerity” in the discussions, according to the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. Proof of this would be the imposition of a two-week quarantine on the authorities who met with the American. “We are willing to pay that price, to discuss cooperation with the US on matters of mutual concern.”
Climate watchers, for their part, hope that the dialogue will lead to more ambitious promises on both sides. “The G2 [EUA e China] it needs to understand that, in addition to its bilateral oasis and desert, the entire planet is at stake,” Li Shuo, a Greenpeace consultant, told Reuters. “If they don’t make progress fast enough, everything will become a wasteland soon.”
The meeting in Tianjin will be the second between Kerry and Xie — the first was held in Shanghai in April. It would not be up to the American, however, to discuss anything beyond the climate crisis, despite Wang’s warning of the connection of this issue with other diplomatic disputes.
Amid the tensions, experts believe that the clashes should not influence Beijing’s action on the climate issue. The Asian country has insisted that its efforts to reduce emissions and adopt cleaner energy matrices are a vital part of its ambitious domestic agenda.