China has talked up the prospect of cooperating with the United States and other developed countries on new energy and emerging technologies, despite ongoing tensions between Beijing and Washington over the South China Sea, Taiwan and human rights.
Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat and a Politburo member, said China would “expand and deepen practical cooperation with parties, including the United States, Europe and Japan, in various fields such as new energy and new technologies”.
Yang made the comments in an article published in Communist Party mouthpiece, People’s Daily, on Sunday.
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To mark the party’s centenary, Yang called for the ideological divide to be dropped. He said China would firmly uphold and practise multilateralism and “deeply participate in the new round of reshaping global rules”.
Beijing has repeatedly called for dialogue with the US to mend their damaged relationship, highlighting the possibility of joining forces to fight global warming.
Hours after he became US president, Joe Biden signed an executive order returning the US to the Paris climate accord. He has also signed a raft of executive actions, including pausing new oil and gas leases on federal land and cutting fossil fuel subsidies to combat climate change.
“Yang sent a signal that China and the US need to find new fields to cooperate to build mutual trust, and work together to meet global challenges such as climate change,” said Wang Yiwei, professor of international relations at Renmin University.
Wang said that while it was difficult for China and the United States to reach a consensus on traditional issues – including Taiwan, Hong Kong, and some aspects of human rights – the new energy industry was an area in which Biden was taking strong action to advance his climate agenda and it had become the most promising sector bringing the two countries to work together.
The renewable energy boom is also at the top of the agenda for China, which deems it a new pillar for economic growth.
China aims to hit peak carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060, Beijing’s latest and strongest commitment in the global fight against climate change. Analysts say groundbreaking technologies and global cooperation are needed to achieve the targets.
The development of strategic emerging industries, including new energy and green-energy vehicles was also mentioned in the country’s next five-year plan.
“China and the EU have a lot of space for complementary cooperation in the new energy field, and of course there is competition,” Wang said.
China and the European Union confirmed the conclusion of an investment agreement at the end of last year. For China, the deal includes investment possibilities for renewable energy and China will commit to market access for new-energy vehicles.
Yang also said China would actively take part in revising existing international rules and setting the rules of “new frontiers” to guide and promote the reform and construction of the global governance system.
“New frontiers” was first mentioned by Chinese President Xi Jinping in public at a keynote speech in Geneva in 2017 when he referred to the deep sea, the polar regions, outer space and the internet as “new frontiers for cooperation rather than a wrestling ground for competition”.
During a speech at the BRICS Business Forum in July 2018, Xi again mentioned that the interests and demands of emerging markets and developing countries should be taken into consideration when new rules were made on issues, including “new frontiers”.
“Different from the traditional field, countries seriously lack awareness and knowledge of new frontiers, and all international cooperation treaties are also being explored,” said Yang Jian, vice-president of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
He said there were only a handful of nations in a “powerful club with advanced technology” that could help set new frontier rules, but they would be responsible for protecting the interests of the vast majority of developing countries.
“In the past year or two, [former US president Donald] Trump has put the competition between power countries ahead of international cooperation, which has disrupted cooperation in the new frontiers,” Yang said, adding that Chinese authorities were actively creating laws to ease international cooperation on new frontiers, to make up for a current deficit in governance in those sectors.
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