World Powers agree on climate, not on human rights – China and US relation

September 27, 2015 1:18 am

 

President Barack Obama. Photo / AP

US President Barack Obama and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have
vowed to fight global warming and halt commercial cybertheft, but
exchanged sharp words on human rights and territorial disputes.
At
an extraordinary joint conference, Obama chided on its
treatment of dissidents and insisted hacking attacks on US firms must
stop, even as he thanked Xi for his commitment on climate change.
The
world’s top two economic powers are also its biggest polluters, and
campaigners hailed their commitment to reduce emissions as a key step
toward a global climate pact before the end of the year.
This
achievement was all the more remarkable given the tensions over
industrial espionage and China’s aggressive moves to seize disputed
territory in the South China Sea.
The red carpet and full
ceremonial honours that welcomed Xi to the White House underlined the
importance of the great powers’ relationship, but the leaders made no
effort to conceal their differences.

“We had a frank discussion about human rights, as we have in
the past,” Obama said, branding China’s treatment of political
dissidents and minorities “problematic”.
The two delegations
promised not to spy on each other’s private enterprises for commercial
gain, but here again, Obama used tough language, declaring: “I indicated
it has to stop.”
Xi protested that “China strongly opposes and combats the theft of commercial secrets and other kinds of hacking attacks”.
The
Chinese leader also firmly pushed back on human rights criticism,
warning that reform would come on China’s own timetable and without
undermining its stability.
“We must recognise that countries have
different historical processes and realities, that we need to respect
people of all countries in the rights to choose their own path
independently,” he said.
There was also a sharp exchange over
China’s bid to extend its sovereignty over the South China Sea by
building bases on reclaimed islands in areas disputed by Washington’s
southeast Asian allies.
“Islands in the South China Sea, since
ancient times, are China’s territory,” Xi declared. “We have the right
to uphold our own territorial sovereignty and lawful and legitimate
maritime rights and interests.”
Obama said the disputes must be settled in accordance with international statutes, noting the US was not a claimant.
Both
countries signed a “joint vision” ahead of December’s UN climate summit
in Paris, and China committed to a domestic “cap and trade” carbon
exchange. China will also set aside US$3.1 billion ($4.85 billion) to
help developing countries fight climate change.
“If the world’s
two largest economies, energy consumers and carbon emitters come
together like this, then there is no reason for other countries, whether
developed or developing, to not do so as well,” Obama said.

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