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TematicheCina e Indo-PacificoBeijing backtracks, returns to climate talks with Washington

Beijing backtracks, returns to climate talks with Washington

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Faced with the combined resistance of the world community, China has been forced to swallow its pride and agree to return to the climate talks with the USA. In a bilateral meeting with U. S. President, Joe Biden, on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, on November 14, 2022, President of China, Xi Jinping, agreed to resume talks with the United States as part of international climate negotiations.

It may be recalled that taking the excuse of the visit of Speaker of U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosy, to Taiwan on August 2, 2022, China cancelled all future talks with the United State on climate change; betraying Beijing’s blatant disregard for concerns over global warming. Beijing’s stance had been widely interpreted as “fundamentally irresponsible.” Talks between Beijing and Washington over climate were frozen for months as a consequence. Now, after a three-hour-long meeting between Biden and Xi, China has been compelled to see reason. 

Not only that, Beijing has also been compelled to climb down from the high horse and soften its stance on the Taiwan issue. Months ago, Beijing used to say it would ensure the integration of Taiwan with mainland China by force. With heightened activities of the Chinese air force and navy in the Taiwan Straits it looked as if Beijing’s attack on Taiwan was imminent. This is no longer the case. After his meeting with Xi on November 14, a confident Joe Biden announced in a news conference in Bali: “I do not think there is an imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan.” Thus, resolute action by the USA and powerful European countries to take the bull by the horn has helped call China’s bluff.  

Mandarins of the Communist Party of China now seem to have realized that international opposition is growing against the high-handed behaviour of Beijing and its design to hold the world at ransom, taking the excuse of Nancy Pelosy’s visit to Taiwan. Ransom indeed; with China emerging as the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, efforts to turn the tide of global warming are bound to fail unless Beijing co-operates in the effort to preserve the environment. Since 2006, China has emerged as the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, being responsible for more than a quarter of the overall emission of greenhouse gases in the world. Between 2005 and 2019, energy-related emissions in China have increased more than 80 percent; a consequence of Beijing’s unattainable aim to leap-frog to the position of the number one economy of the world in a short period of time. By contrast, in this period energy-related emissions in the USA have dropped by 15 percent.

Mandarins in Beijing may have realized that its earlier decision to walk out of the climate talks with the USA may have ruffled feathers among the Pacific Island nations, resulting finally in the decision to return to the negotiation table with America on the issue prevention of global warming. While global warming is an issue of serious concern all over the world, for the Pacific Island nations it is a matter of immediate life and death. As a consequence of the rising level of the oceans, some of these tiny Pacific Island nations have already lost some of their land areas to the sea; among them Tuvalu, Kiribati and Marshall Islands. If the trend continues without arrest, some of these nations will soon vanish altogether under the waves of the Pacific. The opposition of these nations against countries not interested in arresting global warming is understandable; more so in the case of China and the USA, the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world.

Washington, to its chagrin, had realized the strength of this opposition when, under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the USA had decided to withdraw from the climate talks. Now that the American approach has changed under President Biden, the situation has altered and many of these nations are already returning to the American fold. In May 2022, the plan of Beijing to bring 10 Pacific Island countries into China’s orbit through a wide-ranging security pact was rebuffed by these small nation states. Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi had to walk out of a news conference in Fiji in a huff. The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 in the USA, which will substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions in America, has given Washington a new credibility among the Pacific Island nations. 

The anxiety of Beijing to extend its influence among the Pacific Island nations is different. At the bottom of it is its nefarious design to snuff out the independence of Taiwan. If Beijing can extend its influence among the Pacific Island nations and set up a string of military bases in this belt of islands, it can effectively block efforts at U.S. military intervention to prevent a Chinese attack on Taiwan.  In agreeing to return to the table on the issue of climate talks with the USA, Beijing’s real aim is likely to be to hoodwink the world and pave the way for its annexation of Taiwan. The world cannot, therefore, afford to lower its guard against China.

That the antics of China like refusing to participate in climate talks or attempts to browbeat Taipei by flying Chinese military aircraft close to the coasts of Taiwan have failed to impress other countries, the least of all Taiwan, is evident from the fact that British Trade Minister Greg Hands paid an official visit to Taipei on November 9, 2022, to attend the annual Taiwan – U.K. Trade Talks. Of all the European nations, Germany has often been accused of an ambivalent attitude towards China, but Western governments are becoming increasingly wary about the ambitions of China regarding technology and its assertive foreign policy. The U.S. and other governments have tightened control on access to processor chips and other technology. Meanwhile, prior to his meeting with President of China Xi Jinping, U.S. President Joe Biden had a meeting in Cambodia with leaders of Japan and South Korea, discussing how to contain the assertive postures of China in the Pacific region. Moreover, Biden also joined a conference of the Southeast Asian nations to contain the Chinese attempt to expand its influence in Southeast Asia. 

The combined effect of the concerted move by different nations across Asia and Europe, under the leadership of the United States, has been to convince Beijing of the futility of the attempt to browbeat the world in general and Taipei in particular, in the wake of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. This may have persuaded President of China Xi Jinping to assure the U.S. President that China had no military ambition to mount an attack on Taiwan. His speech in Beijing, however, in the wake of his nomination as the President of China for a record third term, and possibly for life, that China would substantially boost its nuclear capabilities as a long-term measure leaves no scope for complacency on the part of the liberal democratic world.

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