Thursday, October 26, 2023

Newsom Meets With China's Xi, Touts Progress in Advancing Climate, Trade Issues 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom discussed critical issues with senior Chinese officials, including climate change, human rights, and trade, as part of his weeklong tour of China.

Notably, the topic of human rights wasn't addressed in his Oct. 25 meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“We accelerated our progress on climate in meaningful and substantive ways,” Mr. Newsom told reporters after the meeting in Beijing on Oct. 25.
Mr. Newsom said the two talked about the Israel–Hamas war and fentanyl. Mexican cartels have been buying precursor chemicals from China to make the synthetic opioid drug, and shipping the finished products to the United States.

Mr. Xi told Mr. Newsom about the importance of improving ties between China and California, which the Chinese leader said would serve to advance ties between Beijing and Washington, according to state-run media outlet Xinhua.

The Newsom–Xi exchanges came less than a month before an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that's scheduled to take place in San Francisco. While the potential exists for a meeting at the summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Mr. Xi, President Biden has only stated that such a meeting is a "possibility," and officials in Beijing haven't confirmed whether the Chinese leader will travel to the United States.
The leaders of the world's two largest economic powers haven't had an in-person meeting since last year's G20 summit in Indonesia. Despite the Biden administration's efforts to resume diplomatic engagement with Beijing, the two nations still trade blame over issues ranging from Taiwan to human rights.

Mr. Newsom was warmly received by senior officials in Beijing. In a meeting earlier on Oct. 25, China’s deputy leader, Han Zheng, addressed Mr. Newsom as an “old friend” and said his visit would “inject positive energy into the development of the China–U.S. relationship.”

“I’m here in expectation, as you suggest, of turning the page, of renewing our friendship and reengaging [on] foundational and fundamental issues that will determine our collective faith in the future,” Mr. Newsom said in brief opening remarks ahead of his meeting with Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, earlier in the day.

Mr. Wang is set to arrive in Washington on Oct. 26 for a three-day visit, during which he will meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Currently, it isn't known if Mr. Wang will speak to President Biden directly.
In 2017, then-California Gov. Edmund Brown met with Mr. Xi during a trip to China.

Human Rights

According to a statement from the governor’s office, Mr. Newsom spoke about numerous human rights issues on Oct. 25, although not with Mr. Xi. Those issues included rights violations and anti-democracy efforts in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang.
Before his visit to China, Mr. Newsom's spokesperson told reporters that the trip “is wholly focused on climate,” suggesting that human rights wouldn't be on the agenda during meetings with Chinese officials. The spokesperson’s remark prompted a group of House Republicans to issue a letter calling on the governor to cancel his trip.

However, Mr. Newsom said he brought up human rights issues with Mr. Wang. When asked why he didn’t do the same with Mr. Xi, the California governor said, “I can’t be everything to everyone at every moment.”

Ahead of Mr. Newsom’s trip, a coalition of more than 50 human rights and pro-democracy organizations issued a letter saying that Mr. Newsom should demand the release of 1,672 political prisoners in Hong Kong, including Jimmy Lai.
Many Hong Kong students participated in the 2019–2020 anti-Chinese Communist Party (CCP), pro-democracy protest movement. However, many protesters have since been arrested and sentenced, some found guilty under the city’s national security law. Mr. Lai, the former publisher of the now-defunct newspaper Apple Daily, has been incarcerated in Hong Kong since December 2020.
 California Gov. Gavin Newsom (R) speaks on the state's experience in combating climate change with professor Gong Peng at the University of Hong Kong, in Hong Kong, on Oct. 23, 2023 (Xinqi Su/AFP via Getty Images)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (R) speaks on the state's experience in combating climate change with professor Gong Peng at the University of Hong Kong, in Hong Kong, on Oct. 23, 2023 (Xinqi Su/AFP via Getty Images)

‘Strategic Red Lines’

Mr. Newsom told reporters that there are "strategic red lines" in the U.S.–China ties but that the two nations could manage it.
Chinese diplomats have repeatedly asserted that the Taiwan issue was its “first red line,” warning Washington not to cross it.
On Oct. 25, China's defense ministry criticized the Pentagon’s "2023 China Military Power Report," blaming the United States for tensions in the Taiwan Strait and reiterating the vow to achieve unification with Taiwan. The CCP views Taiwan as part of its territory to be taken by force if necessary. Rejecting the claim, the self-ruled, democratic Taiwan has pledged to defend its freedom.
The Defense Department said in the report that the Chinese regime "amplified diplomatic, political, and military pressure against Taiwan" in 2022, with its military increasing "provocative and destabilizing actions in and around the Taiwan Strait" including "ballistic missile overflights of Taiwan."

Climate Agenda

Mr. Newsom took part in a “fireside chat” at Hong Kong University on Oct. 23. According to a statement, the governor told the audience that Hong Kong and California have been leading the fight against climate change.

Li Yongsheng, deputy commissioner of the Chinese foreign ministry in Hong Kong, also took part in the event at the school, according to Hong Kong media. Mr. Li had previously served as the deputy director-general of the Chinese foreign ministry in Xinjiang.

On Oct. 24, Mr. Newsom signed a new climate partnership with China’s southern Guandong Province, according to a statement. China’s state-run media reported that the California governor also boarded an electric bus and test-drove an electric SUV, both made by China’s biggest electric vehicle manufacturer, BYD.

“We’re proud to have a partner like Guangdong in our efforts to make the tailpipe a thing of the past,” Mr. Newsom said.
BYD was one of 82 foreign and Chinese companies found to be “potentially directly or indirectly benefiting from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang through abusive labour transfer programs as recently as 2019,” according to a 2020 report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

In 2021, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation sent a letter to the CEOs of 84 companies, including BYD, urging them to decouple their supply chains from Xinjiang.

Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.), one of the House Republicans who wrote the letter calling on the governor to cancel his China trip, took to X, formerly known as Twitter, on Oct. 24 to ask why Mr. Newsom would want to work with the CCP.

Trade Issues

Mr. Newsom signed a memorandum of understanding with Zheng Shanjie, the head of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planner. The governor’s office said the memo is focused on climate issues.

Aside from climate, trade was also the focus of the Oct. 24 meetings between Mr. Newsom and the regime’s senior officials. According to the readout from his office, Mr. Newsom discussed how to strengthen the two-way trade between California and China, which he said rose to $166 billion. He also "made clear that foreign investments must continue to be predicated on fair competition."

U.S. lawmakers, however, warned on Oct. 24 that the CCP has taken advantage of the United States for decades, saying it’s time to change that situation.

Sens. ​​Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced the "True Reciprocity Act of 2023," a proposal that addresses the “substantial imbalance” in the U.S.–China relationships across a series of sectors, including trade, diplomacy, and media.

Mr. Sullivan said in a statement, “For decades, American citizens, businesses, and organizations operating in China have faced significant restrictions and censorship, in sharp contrast to the treatment faced by their CCP counterparts who operate largely unencumbered in the United States."

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