Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the National Day reception on the eve of the 71st anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing, China September 30, 2020.
Thomas Peter | Reuters
Many expected the leaders of the world’s two largest economies — and the largest carbon polluters — to have their first meeting on the sidelines of the summit as tensions between the two countries simmer. Since taking office in January, Biden has called China the “most serious competitor” to the U.S. as he maintains former President Donald Trump’s tough stance on Beijing.
Xi and Biden spoke by phone in February, just ahead of China’s Spring Festival.
Reducing carbon emissions is one of the few areas China and the U.S. have said they could cooperate on, and aligns with Xi’s announcement last year that the Asian nation aims to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030.
Over the weekend, the U.S. and China jointly issued a broad statement on how the two countries would work together to “tackle the climate crisis.”
The statement followed two days of talks in Shanghai between U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua.
On Tuesday, Xi said at the opening ceremony of the Boao Forum for Asia that China would support “green” development, particularly regarding the Belt and Road Initiative. Critics say the infrastructure development program is part of Beijing’s attempt to increase its influence among less developed countries in the region.
Xi did not mention the U.S. by name in his speech, but said big countries should behave responsibly and that China would not seek hegemony or “a sphere of influence.”
The announcement Wednesday that Xi would attend the climate summit comes more than three weeks since Biden invited 40 world leaders to attend the two-day meeting set for Thursday and Friday.