A Partnership to Save the Planet
The following is an excerpt from an op-ed by Asia Society Policy Institute Senior Fellow Thom Woodroofe published in Foreign Policy.
The central debate between scholars and analysts in recent years on the relationship between the world’s two largest carbon emitters — the United States and China — has been whether cooperation, competition, or some combination thereof is best for the planet. Over the same period, relations between the two powers have sunk to new lows, and there are vocal constituencies that see any engagement as futile — or worse, appeasement.
As a result, collective hopes for an enduring partnership between the United States and China on climate have been repeatedly dashed. For every step forward in the last two years on climate, there has been a step back. Early signs of a broader stabilization following November’s bilateral meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Bali faded with February’s spy balloon incident, which also thwarted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s follow-up visit to Beijing. But against this backdrop, climate has reemerged as a potentially helpful vanguard issue.
With Special Presidential Envoy John Kerry making his latest call for the two countries to work together despite their differences and uncertainty surrounding whether Xi will participate in a virtual climate summit for world leaders expected to be convened by Biden on April 20, the debate is starting anew. It may be that we see Kerry back in Beijing as a diplomatic entrée ahead of cooperation, or at least the discussion of it, in other areas. In this way, climate can help stabilize the broader U.S.-China relationship.