The announced partnership between the U.S. and China focuses on increasing renewable energy usage, combating deforestation, and reducing methane emissions. This agreement was a surprise to many in the international community as the U.S. and China are two of the largest CO2 emitters whose relationship has been increasingly tense. Increased climate cooperation is a necessary step towards keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius. Many hope the renewed climate diplomacy between nations will lead to the de-escalation of tensions between global powers, creating a more stable national security environment for all nations.
U.S. policy towards China has combined cooperation and competition. The meeting between leaders has shown its intention to combat China’s unethical foreign policy that is seen as a threat to democratic values and U.S. global interests. The Biden administration has attempted to rally democratic nations to create an alternative to the “belt and road” initiative for developing countries. This aspirational plan would provide an alternative to predatory lending practices and asset acquisition practices commonly associated with the Belt and Road Initiative. President Biden’s comments at COP 26 about China’s absence also show this dynamic of the U.S. desire to maintain the leadership on climate issues.
The Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., Qin Gang, stated, “China stands ready to work with the United States to enhance exchanges and co-operation across the board, jointly address regional and international issues as well as global challenges.” Some experts have speculated that this will be the beginning of a thawing of relations between nations. While climate is an issue both sides are working on, many other issues remain points of contention between the U.S. and China. Human rights, relations with Taiwan, developments in Hong Kong, and the South China Sea are remaining U.S. concerns when contemplating better relations with China. Reports of the call between leaders are said to have included a discussion led by Biden on these concerns and U.S. priorities.
While the surprise agreement between the U.S. and China has not made any substantial contributions or commitments to the climate crisis, other incentives concerning national security have risen out of the agreement. With cooperation at the focus of the relationship versus competition, there is less risk the two countries will delve into conflict thus providing a more stable international community and a more secure national security environment. However, other points of disagreement between nations could lead to increased tensions once again. The rise of China will continue to be the United States’ primary concern affecting international relations. The U.S. is concerned that the spread of China’s influence through economic programs within their belt and road initiative could lead to further democratic backsliding and an increasingly unstable global political climate. Overall, the agreement between the U.S. and China has been a positive result that, in the short term, will ease tensions leading to more stable U.S. national security.