John Kerry Leaves China Empty-Handed After Days of Climate Discussions

Climate czar says he made no demands of Chinese but 'did succeed in having long and very detailed meetings'

July 19, 2023

Biden administration climate czar John Kerry is leaving Beijing with no deal, he announced Wednesday after three days of climate negotiations with Xi Jinping's government.

Kerry during a press conference said that while he went to China to "break new ground" on the communist nation's climate commitments, he was unable to do so. Kerry went as far as to admit that he made no demands of the Chinese, arguing that "nobody should be 'dictated to.'" He nonetheless argued that his trip was a success, as he held "very frank conversations."

"We did succeed in having long and very detailed meetings with a lot to catch up on," Kerry said. "We did have very frank conversations, but we came here to break new ground … and it is clear that we are going to need a little more work to complete that task."

Kerry's failure to return to the United States with any sort of climate agreement likely comes as an embarrassment to the Biden administration, which argued in the buildup to Kerry's trip that U.S.-China climate negotiations should not be derailed by political disagreements. During Kerry's time in Beijing, Xi poured cold water on the Biden administration's attempts at climate diplomacy—he did not meet with Kerry during the visit and on Tuesday said his nation's climate goals "will never be influenced by others."

In response to that statement, Kerry on Wednesday said he agrees that the United States should not make demands of the Chinese.

"We all agree that nobody should be 'dictated to,' and we're not doing that. That's why we had three days of intensive discussions," Kerry said. "And I think if you ask [Chinese officials] … they would tell you there was no dictation here, there was a clear exchange of ideas."

In addition to Xi's comments, the Chinese Communist Party used climate negotiations to threaten the United States during Kerry's trip. CCP-run propaganda rag Global Times on Monday warned that America must end its "crackdown" on China or risk losing "any kind of cooperation" on climate change.

"While Washington has long wanted to isolate climate change issues related to China, there is actually no way to separate bilateral cooperation on global warming from the broader context of China-U.S. relations," the state-run media outlet's editorial said.

Kerry worked to avoid angering Xi ahead of the trip. During a Thursday congressional hearing, he refused to call Xi a "dictator," saying that while Xi "wields enormous power as the leader of China," the Biden administration shouldn't get "tangled up in labels and names."

"Frankly, all of that is water off a duck's back," Kerry said.