US climate ambassador Kerry gets cold shoulder in China | Voice of america
WASHINGTON – Analysts portray US envoy John Kerry’s visit to China this week as a diplomatic embarrassment, with Chinese leaders failing to give Kerry’s call for cooperation on climate change just video meetings with senior officials.
“The Taliban were better received,” said Anders Corr, a long-time China observer and editor of the Journal of Political Risk, when a delegation from the Afghan insurgent group met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on July 28.
Kerry’s cool treatment reflects how much China’s attitude towards Washington has changed in just a few months.
The appointment of Kerry, a former foreign secretary and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, as special envoy on climate issues by US President Joe Biden was initially welcomed in China as an opportunity to grapple with a new US administration. Under Biden’s predecessor, President Donald Trump, US policy towards Beijing was viewed by some as overly restrictive and rightly assertive by others.
“The climate problem could be our new ping-pong diplomacy,” hopefully suggested an article in the Global Times, an offshoot of the Chinese state media conglomerate.
The constructive stance continued during Kerry’s first visit to Shanghai in April, which ended with a joint statement setting out several concrete steps to reduce carbon emissions and commitments to work together “to tackle the climate crisis” between the sides.
But any recognizable goodwill at the time had fizzled out in the face of increasing competition for global influence and Beijing’s growing arrogance following America’s chaotic exit from Afghanistan when Kerry arrived for his last meeting this week in Tianjin – a port city east of Beijing.
Senior officials, including Wang, Deputy Prime Minister Han Zheng, and State Councilor Yang Jiechi, only met Kerry via videoconference while a relatively young climate negotiator was sent to Tianjin for face-to-face talks.
The treatment was tantamount to “diplomatic snub,” said Corr, comparing it to widespread photos of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, chairman of the Taliban political commission, who had met Wang in person just a few weeks earlier. “Not to mention the dreary photo backdrop, video calls from school principals and public lectures [by the Chinese side]. “
The whole matter is a “joke” at the US expense, Corr said, adding that the Chinese Communist Party “laughs at its” [expletive] the end. You can quote me on it. “
Dispute over the climate issue
If Kerry was embarrassed about the look, it didn’t go any better in terms of content. During his video call with the American envoy, Wang Kerry gave a lecture and rejected his argument that the climate issue is so important that it should go beyond politics.
Kerry told reporters after his meetings that the talks had been “very constructive” and that he had told the Chinese “very directly” that their construction of new coal-fired power plants is hindering global efforts to address climate change.
He also said he had urged his interlocutors not to allow other pressures in relations between the world’s largest economies to hinder cooperation in what he called the “climate crisis”.
The Chinese State Department reported, however, that Wang told Kerry that Washington was guilty of “a major strategic misjudgment about China” and that the climate issue could not be decoupled from other diplomatic issues.
“China says they have no intention of working with the US on climate issues if they don’t get what they want,” June Teufel Dreyer, professor of political science at the University of Miami, said in a telephone interview on Friday.
What Beijing wants, Dreyer said, is concessions on Taiwan, the South China Sea, free navigation and many other issues. However, she does not believe the Biden government will be able to back down in any of these areas.
She noted that falling polls following the chaotic US exit from Afghanistan and bipartisan calls in Washington to deal tough with China have limited the government’s options in the run-up to next year’s critical congressional elections.
“2022 is just around the corner,” she said. The Biden government and the Democratic Party “cannot afford” another foreign policy setback.
Dreyer said she doesn’t know what Kerry’s goals were in Tianjin, but he appears to have come home empty-handed.
“As a taxpayer, I don’t understand why US officials have to make these trips when there is no result; It costs a lot of money, ”she said. “And if the Chinese side takes the opportunity to humiliate America, that’s twice as bad.”