John Kerry did not expect bluntness during his latest trip to China.
Written by Paul Antonopoulos, independent geopolitical analyst
U.S. Presidential Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry held a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to discuss Sino-American cooperation in dealing with climate change. It would first appear that climate change cooperation between Washington and Beijing would be the responsible decision for two superpowers to make. However, Kerry would not have expected the bluntness he received from China.
Washington had expected that climate change cooperation would be a straight forward task, but Beijing brought any American expectations to a halt by pointing out that this cannot be a single shining light when every other facet of their bilateral relationship is deteriorating.
In fact, Wang Yi told Kerry that the U.S. saw joint efforts against climate change as an “oasis.” He added that “surrounding the oasis is a desert, and the oasis could experience desertification very soon. China-U.S. climate cooperation cannot be separated from the wider environment of China-U.S. relations.”
In China, Kerry also had exchanges with Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng, State Councillor in charge of Chinese foreign policy Yang Jiechi, and climate change envoy Xie Zhenhua.
In this way Washington wants to emphasize the importance of climate change in its interaction with China. During Kerry’s first trip to China earlier this year, he lambasted the country for not doing enough to reduce carbon emissions. However, during this week’s trip, his rhetoric changed and the importance of China in fighting climate change was stressed.
Washington hopes that cooperation on climate change will help build a better relationship with China, not necessarily a relationship of trust, but at least one of productive interaction. Unfortunately for the U.S. though, Kerry’s urging that climate change cooperation must be achieved because it is “not ideological, not partisan, and not a geostrategic weapon,” fell on deaf ears as he received a cold reception. Along with Wang Yi’s oasis and desert analogy, Han Zheng urged the U.S. to “create a good atmosphere of cooperation,” demonstrating that China does not want to hear rhetoric from Washington, but concrete actions towards positive cooperation.
Effectively, the Chinese diplomats tried to dispel the American illusion that it could pursue a strategy of containing and pressuring China economically, militarily and geopolitically, but on the other hand talk about cooperation in areas that benefits Washington. Wang Yi stressed that without common improvement in relations between the two countries, it is impossible to build effective cooperation on climate change.
It is clear that climate change cannot be solved without the cooperation of the U.S. and China, especially since the two countries are the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases. On the other hand, the issue of climate change is complex and includes political, diplomatic, economic, technological and social aspects. Therefore, in the context of worsening political relations, it is difficult to talk about achieving successful cooperation over the climate change issue when all other issues are expected to be sidelined and ignored.
China and the U.S. will have to overcome ideological differences and find a common understanding to solve climate change. This will prove difficult though as the U.S. is responsible for the deterioration of bilateral relations by imposing unprovoked sanctions, arming Taiwan and attempting to restrict China within its own maritime space.
If Washington is legitimate in their desire to cooperate on climate change, it must take concrete steps to change the situation with Beijing for the better. In July, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visited China. Beijing delivered to her three documents: the basic conditions for maintaining relations between China and the U.S., a list of mistakes that the U.S. needs to correct, and a list of issues that causes concern for Beijing.
In fact, the three main points that Beijing requests from Washington is to end their attempts to change the Chinese political regime from the outside, to stop their interference in Taiwanese affairs, and to drop sanctions for alleged human rights violations in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang. Of lesser importance for Beijing is for the U.S. to change its hostile and provocative policy on Chinese students, relax visa restrictions and end the pressure against Chinese technology companies.
To date, the U.S. has not taken any steps to address these issues. So long as the U.S. continues to sanction and pressure China, it is unlikely that the Asian country will capitulate for the sake of cooperation on climate change issues, especially when it is unilaterally and multilaterally already engaged in dealing with climate change.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Election Season Nears In The United States As Political Crisis Gains Traction
- Florida Senator Marco Rubio Encourages Tensions Between China And Lithuania