Clinton Paints China Policy With a Green Hue

BEIJING — Declaring that “we hope you won’t make the same mistakes we made,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited China to join the United States in an ambitious effort to curb greenhouse gases, as she toured an energy-efficient power plant in Beijing on Saturday.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a news conference in Beijing, where she was on a two-day visit.

What does Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton need to know about China when she visits Beijing?

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited the Taiyanggong Geothermal Power Plant in Beijing on Saturday. “When we were industrializing and growing, we didn’t know any better; neither did Europe,” Mrs. Clinton said. “Now we’re smart enough to figure out how to have the right kind of growth.”

The gas-fired power plant, which uses sophisticated turbines made by General Electric, is nearly twice as efficient as the coal-fired plants that supply much of China’s electricity and that helped vault China past the United States as the world’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide.

The Obama administration hopes to make climate change the centerpiece of a broader, more vigorous engagement with China. For Mrs. Clinton, the two-day stop in Beijing at the end of a weeklong Asian tour, represents an effort to put her own stamp on a relationship that was dominated by the Treasury Department in the latter years of the Bush administration.

“The opportunities for us to work together are unmatched anywhere in the world,” Mrs. Clinton declared, on a hectic day filled with meetings with President Hu Jintao and other top Chinese officials.

Human rights groups have criticized Mrs. Clinton for soft-pedaling Tibet and other issues during her first visit as secretary of state. She said she did not want these disputes to interfere with critical challenges like climate change, the global economic crisis and security concerns.

It was a stark contrast to 1995, when Mrs. Clinton, then first lady, gave a speech in Beijing at a United Nations conference, in which she catalogued abuses against women and concluded by saying that “human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.”

Speaking after a meeting with the foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, Mrs. Clinton said she had raised the Tibet issue and other concerns. But she argued that the work of advocacy groups and people in civil society in this area was “at least as important” as that of government officials.

Mr. Yang repeated China’s customary statement that Beijing was ready to discuss human rights with Washington on the basis of “equality and noninterference in each other’s affairs.” The “smiling faces” on Chinese people, he said, attested to the country’s respect for human rights.

A local rights group, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said the Beijing police put a number of dissidents and activists under surveillance during Mrs. Clinton’s visit, confining some in their homes.

On the global economic crisis, the two governments said they would work together to chart a recovery. Mrs. Clinton said she expected to see changes in the economic relationship between China, with its high savings rate, and the United States, with its heavy borrowing.

During their meeting, she said, Mr. Yang told her that Chinese people were spending more on home appliances. “It would also be fair to say that that many Americans have now come to terms with the fact that saving might be a good habit to acquire,” Mrs. Clinton said.

She thanked Mr. Yang for China’s “continuing confidence” in the United States, as the largest foreign buyer of Treasury securities. He offered a noncommittal statement that China would decide where to invest its foreign-exchange reserves on the basis of safety, value and liquidity.

Mrs. Clinton got a warmer reception at lunch with Dai Bingguo, a member of the powerful State Council. “You look younger and more beautiful than you look on TV,” he exclaimed. Mrs. Clinton was momentarily nonplused, before replying, “Well, we will get along very well.”

Mrs. Clinton’s visit to the Taiyanggong Thermal Power Plant allowed her to steer the focus back to climate change. She introduced her special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern, who noted that the United States and China accounted for 40 percent of the world’s emissions.

“This not a matter of politics or morality or right or wrong,” he said. “It is simply the unforgiving math of accumulating emissions.”

So far, the United States and China are mainly collaborating on research projects and ventures like the power plant. The harder work, analysts said, will come if the United States presses China to accept mandatory caps on its emissions — something Beijing has so far rejected.

Still, some China experts say they believe that climate change can give relations between the countries fresh energy. The White House has paid close attention to a report by the Asia Society and the Pew Center for Global Climate Change, which offers a road map for cooperation.

“If you look at U.S.-China relations, there are a lot of issues that can go either way,” said Orville Schell, a China scholar at the Asia Society who was involved in producing the report. “What’s missing is an issue in which the two countries can lean into a problem together.”

1 comment:

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