Gov. Gavin Newsom meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping

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BEIJING — California Gov. Gavin Newsom met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday in Beijing, in the latest sign of thawing U.S.-China relations amid rising geopolitical conflicts.

The Democratic governor has been in China this week on a visit billed strictly as focused on climate change, in line with California’s nation-leading emissions policies.

His focus on climate change and subnational cooperation as vectors for diplomacy between the U.S. and China may have paid off. The trip should pave the way for a meeting between President Joe Biden and Xi Jinping at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in San Francisco next month in Newsom’s hometown.

After Xi received Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June and a half-dozen senators earlier this month, his meeting with Newsom is the latest signal that he is open to talks. Blinken also announced Monday that he would host Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, in Washington on Thursday.

The timing of the trip has felt particularly fraught as Newsom flew in directly from meeting with war victims and leaders in Israel, to which President Joe Biden has pledged military support in its bombing of Gaza. China has advocated a cease-fire and a two-state solution.

Escalating tensions between the United State and China were reflected in a breakdown of climate talks at the national level last February where John Kerry was rebuffed in July by Xi and emerged from meetings with his counterpart without any new climate agreement. In a speech the same week Kerry was in China, Xi said China will follow its own path to achieve its emission reduction goals, “and will never be influenced by others.”

On stops in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and now Beijing this week, Newsom, like former California Gov. Jerry Brown before him, has continued to emphasize that progress and partnership on climate change between the world’s two greatest polluters is paramount.

He has focused on areas where California and China can share climate policy and technology, and steered clear of areas of conflict between the two countries, like trade conflicts, China’s militaristic stance towards Taiwan and its alignment with Russia in the Russia-Ukraine war.

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