US climate envoy John Kerry is traveling to China this week to discuss potential joint US-China efforts on climate change, according to two administration officials.
Kerry’s visit, less than a month after Biden administration officials sat down with Chinese officials for a tense meeting in Alaska, puts the climate crisis at the top of the Biden administration’s foreign policy priority list as they also commit to competing with China and challenging them on human rights.
China is the number one carbon emitter globally and climate experts say that the only way to tackle the environmental crisis is with China on board. Kerry’s meetings in Shanghai will be the first time a Biden administration official visits China.
Kerry’s visit was first reported by The Washington Post.
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The visit will take place ahead of a US-hosted virtual climate summit of world leaders on Earth Day, April 22. President Joe Biden told reporters last month that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin “know they’re invited” to the summit, where he is expected to outline the US goal for reductions of carbon emissions by 2030 – known as the determined contribution under the Paris climate accord.
Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “had a brief informal conversation about climate” while they were both in New Delhi last week, a State Department spokesperson told CNN. The spokesperson said the two “were both traveling in India on separate agendas and by happenstance were staying at the same hotel,” which is where they had their brief chat.
Kerry’s visit to China, and US relations with the nation in general, are especially notable not only because of the geopolitical implications but because a face-to-face meeting between US and Chinese officials in Anchorage, Alaska, last month resulted in a public exchange of diplomatic barbs.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken aroused Chinese anger when he said the nation’s activities in places like Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as its cyber attacks on the US and economic coercion of US allies, “threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability.”
China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi pushed back, warning the US against meddling in China’s “internal affairs,” contesting the US right to speak for other countries, charging that the US is the “champion” of cyber attacks, mocking US domestic stability and challenging America’s own record on human rights.
CNN’s Chandelis Duster, Jennifer Hansler and Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.