torsdag 4. november 2021

Pandemic, politics drive Xi’s absence from global talks

This week’s global climate talks in Scotland and the recent G-20 summit in Rome aren’t the only international meetings that China’s leader has not attended in person. Xi Jinping hasn’t left China in nearly 22 months, since January 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic first exploded. His absence drew criticism from U.S. President Joe Biden and questions about China’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. China, the world’s biggest emitter, has pledged to begin reducing its output by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060. The U.S. and others have urged China to advance those goals, but it has balked so far.

“We made our promises and we honor our promises with actions,” China climate envoy Xie Zhenhua said in Glasgow, blaming America’s now-reversed withdrawal from the Paris climate accord under former President Donald Trump for a “wasted five years” in tackling climate change.

China may not be ready to offer any new initiatives on climate, but Xi’s non-appearance also reflects the ruling Communist Party’s zero tolerance approach to controlling the coronavirus. After being the first country overwhelmed with the disease in early 2019, it has stamped out its reappearances with strict lockdowns, quarantines and travel restrictions.