As policy makers in Beijing weigh their options in the event of a Biden victory, one of the subjects that will most engage their attention is climate change. Joe Biden has repeatedly stated that he will put the goal of slowing climate change at the heart of U.S. foreign policy. Washington would rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and urge all countries to enact measures to keep Earth’s temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, as the Democratic Party platform states.
China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Does this mean a Biden administration would add another dimension to U.S.-China tensions? Beijing likely hopes it’ll ease them.
For Chinese officials, the goal would be to get the Biden administration to negotiate with itself—the climate hawks persuading the incoming president to squelch the China hawks to save the planet. Beijing is the key to climate change, climate warriors will say, and America can’t persuade China to help cool the Earth by harassing it on trade, imposing sanctions against its companies, arming Taiwan, and encouraging its neighbors to form alliances against Beijing.
This is an approach China can work with. Beijing wants to fight climate change, its diplomats will whisper to U.S. climate hawks, but Chinese hard-liners need to be convinced. Help us to help you: If America demonstrates a spirit of compromise and cooperation on issues important to the hard-liners, well, who can say? We might even give up our coal plants. Someday.