Government & Military

Xie Zhenhua

The U.S. and China will always have Paris.

Special Representative on Climate Change

In an often-turbulent U.S.-China relationship, climate change negotiations were once a significant bright spot. In December 2015, China and the United States played leading roles in the landmark Paris Agreement signed at a U.N. climate change summit; Xie Zhenhua served as China’s chief negotiator. Western nations had criticized China for dragging its feet in the 2009 climate talks in Geneva, but in 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry praised China as one of the major drivers of the successful negotiation of the pact. Xie seemed aware of the stakes, remarking in the lead-up to the summit, “We are making great efforts to bring about a revolution.”

Under Donald Trump, all those gains could be undone. Trump made noises about withdrawing the United States from its Paris commitments, although his advisors are reportedly divided on the question. The Chinese appear to be holding out hope. After criticizing Trump’s climate stance during the presidential campaign — unusual for a Chinese diplomat — Xie has stated publicly that the president had “softened his tone,” and that sustainable growth was a “global trend” that no one leader could reverse.

(Photo credit: Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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