US seeks cooperation with China on climate but not at any price

(The Guardian, 20 Jul 2021) Climate envoy John Kerry has rejected notion that Beijing could buy US silence on human rights as price of cooperation on climate.

In the next four months or so, the world will find out whether it is possible for one branch of the US federal government – the state department - to accuse Chinese officials of committing genocide, and for another branch – led by the special envoy on climate change, John Kerry – to persuade China to transform the way its dirty economy operates. Is it possible simultaneously to compete for mastery of the world and to collaborate to save that world?

The outcome of this diplomatic experiment will become known at the British-hosted Cop26 in Glasgow convened to try to put the world on course for only 1.5C of warming. All countries are expected to produce their nationally determined contributions – how much they will reduce their carbon footprint. British officials insist Cop26 is about more than China and the US, but without these two players, jointly responsible for 40% of global green house gas emissions, nothing meaningful is achievable.

At issue are conflicting perceptions of modern China’s willingness to work with the west, its trustworthiness, and how best to influence a new superpower that fervently believes delivery of domestic economic prosperity is the basis of its legitimacy. There is also the issue of how well central government’s writ runs. In China, after all, “the mountains are high and the emperors far away”.

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The Guardian, 20 Jul 2021: US seeks cooperation with China on climate but not at any price