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Hal Brands

Using Climate Change as a Weapon Will Backfire on China

Xi wants to cross up the Biden administration by linking greenhouse-gas talks to his geopolitical aims.

More than a T-shirt slogan?

More than a T-shirt slogan?

Photographer: Tim Rue/Bloomberg

A central dilemma of US foreign policy today is this: The country that most threatens the American-led global order is also the country whose cooperation is essential to preserving a livable world. That quandary flared anew last week, when China responded to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan by terminating bilateral discussions on climate change and other issues.

In doing so, President Xi Jinping of China is testing US President Joe Biden’s theory that Washington can cooperate with Beijing in some areas while competing sharply with it in others. But Xi’s power politics has its own risks: He may also be courting greater global blowback than he realizes.