Kerry's possible China visit aids 'limited climate cooperation'
Sign of co-op facet though 'may not be ice-breaking'
Published: Apr 12, 2021 12:43 AM
John Kerry  VCG

John Kerry  Photo: VCG

With climate change as one of the remaining areas China and the US can carry out cooperation amid bilateral tensions, US climate envoy John Kerry's reported visit, yet to be confirmed, still carries a positive signal of a cooperative facet in the most consequential relations in the world despite it may not be ice-breaking,Chinese observers said on Sunday. 

US media Washington Post, citing anonymous US official, reported Saturday that Kerry will meet with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua in Shanghai next week. The reported trip comes less than a month after the two countries' top officials' intense talks and interactions in Alaska. 

Both China and the US haven't officially confirmed the trip. The official the Washington Post's report cited also said the sensitive visit could be called off. 

Kerry has repeatedly talked about China on climate issues. "Our hope is that we're going to be able to deal with China," Reuters quoted Kerry as saying on April 3. 

Xie was appointed as special envoy on climate change by the central government in February. Xie established contact and conducted dialogue and consultation with Kerry in February. 

If Kerry's trip is made, he will be the first senior official from Biden administration to visit China. 

International relations experts saw Kerry's possible visit to China as a positive signal for cooperation from the Biden administration amid bilateral tensions, but they remained cautious about the real outcomes. 

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Sunday that "climate is a major area of common ground for China and the US to cooperate." 

"Kerry's possible visit proves that the current US administration still has a cooperative facet in its diplomacy with China and is serious to push it forward. Kerry himself has a rational understanding of China, which is bullish," Li said. 

But Li also advised observers to lower their expectations that Kerry's single possible visit will kick off quality cooperation between China and the US.

"Even if some consensus can be reached during Kerry's possible visit in China, it will be extremely difficult for him to deliver that back to the US, given the divisions in the US Congress and Kerry's limited influence in the political circle," Li said.

Experts do not expect Kerry's possible visit or cooperation on climate can break the ice. "There will be limited cooperation in dealing with climate change. But aside from that cooperation, US attitude toward China remains confrontational, and China will not yield to pressure on core interest," Li noted.

Within climate change arena, Kerry's knowledge and efforts to promote China-US cooperation in the area deserve recognition, but whether the possible outcomes will be delivered back in the US remains unclear.

The US has invited the leaders of 40 major countries including China to participate in a global summit on climate change on April 22 and 23 as part of the Biden administration's key agenda, according to a White House statement. 

The success of this climate summit cannot be achieved without the cooperation and consensus between China and the US, the two largest economies and also emitters, Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

China and the US are at odds on many issues, and Ma stressed the importance of seeking consensus on issues where common interests still exist, saying both sides also face challenges

The Trump administration's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement was very irresponsible and unserious, and the US needs to rebuild its credibility. For China, a 2060 carbon neutrality goal has been set, but amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the global economic downturn, some energy-intensive industries may continue to expand, Ma said, noting the two sides will communicate over such topics.