US and China flags ahead of a meeting in Beijing, China. Picture: REUTERS/JASON LEE
US and China flags ahead of a meeting in Beijing, China. Picture: REUTERS/JASON LEE

Chinese President Xi Jinping has accepted an invitation from US President Joe Biden to join a summit on climate change, one area in which the two countries are co-operating despite frosty ties on other issues.

Xi will attend via video link on Thursday, China’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. China hopes the conference promotes “a global, joint response to climate change”, ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular briefing in Beijing. He repeated that China is ready to co-operate with the US on the basis of mutual respect.

Washington and Beijing are at odds over a range of issues, from allegations of forced labour in Xinjiang and China’s tightening political grip over Hong Kong to US efforts to curb China’s role in supply chains. Xi used a speech on Tuesday to the Boao Forum on Asia to challenge Washington’s global leadership, saying the world needs “justice, not hegemony”.

Still, the two nations have shown they’re eager to work together to tackle climate change. A joint statement released after US climate envoy John Kerry visited Shanghai last week said Washington and Beijing would support implementation of the Paris Agreement and promote a successful UN climate change conference in Glasgow later in the year.

“China maintains an open attitude when it comes to climate co-operation and welcomes dialogue,” said Zhang Monan, senior fellow at the US-Europe Institute at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, a think-tank in Beijing.

“However, if countries continue to pressure China or adopt tactics that are confrontational and not co-operative, China will address this with corresponding actions,” she said.

Xi met German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron last week for a virtual climate conference. The European leaders welcomed his renewed commitment for China to achieve CO2 neutrality by 2060, a spokesperson for Merkel said, and the three also discussed the coronavirus pandemic and global vaccine supplies.

Washington dropped out of the Paris climate accord under the Trump administration, with China critical of the move. The Chinese foreign ministry said during Kerry’s visit that the US is to blame for delaying the agreement’s progress.

The US is preparing to host 40 world leaders at the summit on Thursday and Friday. The virtual conference will bring together 17 countries responsible for 80% of global emissions and GDP, the White House said.

Biden will pledge to cut US greenhouse-gas emissions by at least half by the end of the decade, the Washington Post reported, citing two people briefed on the plan.

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