1. Xi chats up EU leaders ahead of US climate summit
Our favorite trio has been at it again.
On Friday, Xi Jinping met up with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron via video link.
The topic of conversation: Climate cooperation and Sino-EU relations.
Some context: The meeting comes just ahead of this week’s Earth Day summit, to be hosted by the US on April 22-23.
- The call also coincided with US climate envoy John Kerry’s visit to China (see next entry).
Xi pledged to keep his big climate promises (SCMP):
- “[China] will use the shortest time in human history to achieve peak carbon emissions and carbon neutrality.”
- “There is no doubt that it will be a very tough battle, but we always keep our word and [we will] deliver.”
Xi also called for the China-EU investment agreement (CAI) – which wrapped up negotiations in December – to be ratified soon.
But something was missing from the agenda:
- The meeting made no mention of the sanctions announced by the EU on China over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang or China’s counter sanctions two weeks ago.
Get smart: As Sino-EU ties continue to deteriorate, leaders on both sides are keen to keep issues separate so that climate cooperation can keep moving forward.
2. Warmer temperatures
Late last week, John Kerry – the US special climate envoy – came to Shanghai for some meetings on (you guessed it) climate.
- On Thursday, Kerry sat down with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua.
- On Friday, Kerry had a video meeting with executive vice premier Han Zheng.
Some context: This was the first high-level public visit of a US official to China since before the pandemic – and the first by a member of the Biden administration.
The meetings were pretty successful – resulting in a US-China joint statement on “addressing the climate crisis.”
The joint statement commits the two countries to continuing to work together (State Department):
- “The United States and China are committed to cooperating with each other and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis.”
But there are some questions remaining.
- US President Biden is hosting a virtual climate summit later this week, but Xi Jinping hasn’t RSVP’d yet.
Get smart: It might not look like much, but this is the first joint statement to come out of a meeting between the US and China in quite a while.
- Climate is one of the few places real, constructive cooperation is politically possible.
3. Building a better business environment
On Thursday, the State Council dropped a task list for ministries re: cutting red tape for businesses.
Some context: The State Council deliberated the list two weeks ago at its weekly executive meeting (see April 1 Tip Sheet).
The State Council reaffirmed that companies are at the coreof making gains in three critical economic areas, namely (Gov.cn):
- Creating jobs
- Expanding investment
- Promoting consumption
That’s why it wants to enact the following specific measures:
- The central government will look to root out regulatory barriers in key emerging sectors.
- The Ministry of Finance will streamline the process of tax rebate claims.
- The State Council will support foreign companies to participate more fully in national standards making.
- The State Council will also look to standardize local governments’ power to penalize companies by clarifying standards and procedures.
Get smart: These humdrum efforts may not sound as exciting as big-ticket market openings, but specific measures to improve businesses’ day-to-day operations are a big deal to the companies that benefit from them.
4. Healthy competition
On Friday, Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng sat down with the Associated Press for a wide-ranging interview.
How wide-ranging you ask?
Topics discussed included:
- Hong Kong
- The South China Sea
- Climate change
- The multilateral global order
- Human rights
- Media bias against China
Pffff. Is that all?
Le also had a few thoughts on the state of US-China relations (MoFA):
- “For two big countries like China and the United States, competition might be inevitable. But competition must be healthy, and should not be allowed to become a vicious zero-sum game.”
- “Dialogue can enhance mutual understanding and mutual trust, and pave the way for cooperation.”
- “Without dialogue, things cannot get started.”
Le also repeated the familiar refrain that strained ties were exclusively Washington’s fault:
- “Some still refuse to accept that…China has the right to pursue its own path of development.”
- “This tendency is dangerous, and could…lead the world to catastrophes.”
Get smart: Meet the new talking points, same as the old talking points.
- China continues to leave the door open to dialogue and improved relations, but it’s not backing down from laying the blame for heightened tensions on the US.
Get smarter: Despite the rhetoric, Le and co. know that Sino-US ties are going to get worse before they get better.
5. MEE gets strict on high energy, high emissions projects
On Thursday, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) released its guiding opinions on improving pollution and emission reduction in high energy-consuming and high-emission projects for public comment.
In MEE’s crosshairs: Fossil fuel power stations and the petrochemical, chemical, iron and steel, building materials, and non-ferrous smelting industries.
Some context: The 14th Five-Year Plan called for bringing the proliferation of high energy-consuming and high-emission projects under control as China prioritizes its environmental goals.
Going forward, projects will have to comply with stricter requirements related to:
- Regional environmental quality improvement
- Limiting pollutants
- Carbon emission peak targets
- Environmental impact assessments
But MEE doesn’t want these restrictions to hobble economic growth:
- Projects that fail to meet environmental standards can proceed if regional authorities free up environmental capacity elsewhere and if a given type of project is not prohibited by other normative documents.
Get smart: With stricter requirements in place, local governments will need to be more selective in approving high energy-consuming and high-emission projects.
Get smarter: This is just one of the many uncomfortable adjustments the Chinese economy will undergo in pursuit of Beijing’s climate goals.