Gov. Gavin Newsom meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping to promote climate cooperation

California Gov. Gavin Newsom meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Wednesday to promote climate cooperation between the world’s two largest economies and polluters. The meeting drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over China’s human rights violations. Photo courtesy of Office of the Governor of California

Oct. 25 (UPI) -- California Gov. Gavin Newsom met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Wednesday to promote climate cooperation between the world's two largest economies and polluters, as the meeting drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over China's human rights violations.

"We're not going to move the needle on climate change unless the United States and China collaborate together," Newsom told reporters after the meeting. The Democratic governor says both countries emit more than 40% of the world's carbon emissions.

Both California and China have struggled with extreme weather events, including severe drought, wildfires and flooding. California has pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045, while China has pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060.

Xi said Wednesday, in a letter to the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, that he is willing to work with the United States to address global challenges, according to Chinese state media.

"California and China are two of the world's largest economies. The reality is, we cannot solve the climate crisis without working together," Newsom wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. "Despite our major differences, California is committed to stopping the greatest existential threat our planet has ever known."

Wednesday's meeting with President Xi is one of many during Newsom's weeklong visit, focusing on areas where California and China can share climate policy and technology. The two did not discuss current trade disagreements, China's alignment with Russia or its militaristic stance towards Taiwan, but did discuss fentanyl exports and current sanctions on Chinese chemical companies to curb them.

"The president was rather explicit about the desire to be even more specific in terms of what is needed, in terms of calling out and identifying where these chemicals are going," Newsom told reporters after the meeting which he called "remarkably positive."

Newsom also met Wednesday with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The two discussed climate change, human rights, Taiwan, and the Israel-Hamas war. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold meetings with Wang in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

In a meeting with Chinese Vice President Han Zheng, Newsom called for the release of David Lin, a Californian pastor jailed in China since 2006.

"We hope he's released," Newsom said. "I appreciate the work that has been done to reduce his sentence from a life sentence. But he still looks to be incarcerated through April 2029. Humbly, I submit on the basis of what I know that he should be released."

While Newsom met with a number of Chinese leaders, there was bipartisan criticism from home over the trip. Republican members of Congress from California urged the governor to call out human rights violations and the erosion of civil liberties in Hong Kong.

"These issues are too pressing for you to overlook as they deeply impact our constituents," the lawmakers wrote in a letter last week. The trip "sets a problematic tone for future diplomatic engagement," more than 50 U.S. advocacy groups said in a joint statement.

Newsom did not meet with any Hong Kong government leaders during his visit after stopping in Israel. The governor still plans to visit Tesla's vehicle factory in Shanghai, an offshore wind facility in Jiangsu, and Shenzhen, which is the world's first city to run an all-electric bus fleet.

Newsom is not the first California governor to meet with China's president. Former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown met with Xi in 2017. Former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also advocated for climate cooperation with China.