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The Right War for the US and China

Summary:
Either everyone wins the fight against climate change, or no one does. So, while the world’s great powers – especially the United States and China – should prepare for war, they must wage it against the right enemy. HONG KONG – The planet is heating up – and so are global geopolitics. With less than two months until the crucial United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, the United States and China must commit to cooperate on the existential challenge global warming represents. But bilateral relations remain burdened by mistrust, antagonism, and even warmongering. Biden's Collaborative Containment Strategy CHRIS KLEPONIS/AFP via Getty Images

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Either everyone wins the fight against climate change, or no one does. So, while the world’s great powers – especially the United States and China – should prepare for war, they must wage it against the right enemy.

HONG KONG – The planet is heating up – and so are global geopolitics. With less than two months until the crucial United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, the United States and China must commit to cooperate on the existential challenge global warming represents. But bilateral relations remain burdened by mistrust, antagonism, and even warmongering.

Technically, the US and China are both willing to cooperate on climate change. But China wants to do so only in a broader context of constructive engagement. The US, by contrast, wants “climate cooperation à la carte,” so that it can maintain a policy of containment and competition in virtually every other arena.

This mentality was on display last week, with the announcement of the so-called AUKUS security alliance. The US and the United Kingdom have now agreed to share advanced – and highly sensitive – technology with Australia, and to supply it with nuclear-powered submarines. The goal of the alliance, according to US President Joe Biden, is to advance the “imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term.”

That is not how China sees it. As foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian put it, the...

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