The world’s two largest economies – the United States and China – must work together to fight the “existential threat” of global warming, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Saturday in Beijing at meeting with Chinese government officials and climate experts.
“As the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases and the largest investors in renewable energy, we have both a joint responsibility and ability to lead the way,” Yellen said.
Yellen said “climate finance should be targeted efficiently and effectively” to support already established institutions like the Green Climate Fund, a U.N. entity that is endeavoring to support a paradigm shift in the global response to climate change.
On Friday, Yellen held “candid and constructive” talks with China’s prime minister, Li Qiang, in Beijing.
A Treasury Department statement said Yellen “discussed the administration’s desire to seek healthy economic competition with China that benefits both economies, including American workers and businesses.”
She also emphasized close communication on “global macroeconomic and financial issues and working together on global challenges, including debt distress in low-income and emerging economies and climate finance.”
China’s foreign ministry released a statement saying the prime minister noted that U.S. and Chinese economic interests are closely intertwined, and that China’s development is an opportunity rather than a challenge to the United States. Beijing said that Yellen stated during the talks the U.S. “does not seek ‘decoupling and disconnection’ and has no intention of hindering China’s modernization process.”
The foreign ministry said, “China and the United States should strengthen coordination and cooperation, join hands to tackle global challenges and promote common development.”
While both sides described Yellen’s visit in positive terms, no new plans for more high-level meetings were announced.
“China’s going to continue to be around and be a major player on the world stage,” White House press secretary Karin Jean Pierre said Friday, adding that an intense competition requires intense diplomacy.
“So it is important to have an intense competition requires intense diplomacy,” she said. “That’s what you see Secretary Yellen do, that’s what you saw Secretary Blinken do. These are the type of conversations that the president has had with President Xi in meetings that he’s had with him as well,” she said.
The U.S. Treasury secretary began a four-day visit to China Friday by calling for market reforms in the world’s second-largest economy, and warning that the United States and its allies will fight back against what she called China’s “unfair economic practices.”
Speaking Friday in Beijing to the American Chamber of Commerce in China, Yellen said, “The United States does not seek a wholesale separation of our economies. … The decoupling of the world’s two largest economies would be destabilizing for the global economy, and it would be virtually impossible to undertake.”
And while she noted the importance of trade and investment with China, Yellen also “raised concerns, including barriers to market access, China’s use of non-market tools, and punitive actions that have been taken against U.S. firms in recent months,” during a roundtable with more than 10 U.S. businesses operating in Beijing.
“She also reaffirmed the U.S. economic approach to China, which remains focused on three primary objectives: securing vital interests pertaining to national security and human rights; pursuing healthy and mutually beneficial economic competition, in which China plays by international rules; and seeking mutual cooperation on urgent global challenges, including on the macroeconomy, climate, and global debt,” according to a Treasury Department statement Friday.
China’s foreign ministry said in its statement, “the two sides should strengthen communication and seek consensus on important issues in the bilateral economic field through candid, in-depth, and pragmatic exchanges, so as to inject stability and positive energy into Chinese-U.S. economic relations.”
Yellen arrived in Beijing Thursday and tweeted, U.S. President Joe Biden “charged his administration with deepening communication between our two countries on a range of issues, and I look forward to doing so during my visit.”
Treasury Department officials said before the trip that Yellen would be discussing stabilizing the global economy, as well as challenging China’s support of Russia during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Yellen was not expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Her visit, which is scheduled to last through Sunday, follows U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing last month.
Yellen met earlier this week with China’s ambassador to the United States, Xie Feng, a meeting during which the Treasury said Yellen “raised issues of concern while also conveying the importance of the two largest economies working together on global challenges, including on macroeconomic and financial issues.”
Chinese state media said Xie expressed hope that the two countries will eliminate interference and strengthen dialogue.