California Gov. Gavin Newsom meets with China’s Xi Jinping to partner on climate agenda

In Asia

Gavin Newsom and Xi Jinping

The State of California

California Gov. Gavin Newsom sat down with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday to discuss collaboration on addressing climate change amid fragile relations between the United States and China.

“We emphasize the critical role of accelerated climate action and cooperation at the subnational level between the State of California and the People’s Republic of China,” the Governor’s office said in a statement after the meeting.

The Wednesday meeting was a part of Newsom’s weeklong trip to China where he has had a series of conversations with officials about how to partner on climate crisis mitigation. Newsom is the first governor in four years to visit China and the first California governor to meet with Xi since 2017.

Newsom came under fire from human rights groups and some GOP lawmakers for his China trip.

In a letter on Friday, Republican congressmembers, including former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, requested that Newsom cancel his visit because of its stated emphasis on climate change rather than addressing China’s human rights abuses and connection to the fentanyl crisis.

After the meeting with Xi, Newsom’s office said that the governor had brought up the human rights violations and the fentanyl issue.

Also on Wednesday, Newsom met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Next Thursday, Yi is expected to visit the U.S. to speak with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security advisor Jake Sullivan.

U.S.-China relations currently rest on thin ice. The countries have clashed over trade terms, tech investment and a series of alleged Chinese spy balloons hovering over the U.S.

Despite these tensions, Newsom received a friendly welcome from Chinese leaders. He emphasized that California still wants to work with China on climate strategy even with strains taking place at the national level.

“Divorce is not an option. The only way we can solve the climate crisis is to continue our long-standing cooperation with China,” Newsom said in a statement.

China is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, with the United States trailing right behind it. The country is aiming to peak its carbon emissions before 2030 and be carbon-neutral by 2060. California’s own carbon neutrality deadline is 2045. The United States as a whole has pledged to zero out its emissions by 2050.

The massive environmental footprint of China has made it a key player in softening the blow of the climate crisis.

In July, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry visited China to revive climate collaboration between the two countries. U.S.-China climate cooperation had stalled after former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, a move that angered Xi due to disputes over Taiwan’s status of independence.

Kerry reinitiated climate talks with China in an effort to make progress ahead of the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference, or COP 28, which will take place from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 in Dubai.

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