President Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, will visit China this week, making him the first Biden administration official to visit the country at a moment of high diplomatic tensions.
Mr. Kerry, who will also stop in South Korea, plans to meet in Shanghai with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, according to a senior administration official.
In its formal announcement of the trip, the State Department said that Mr. Kerry would “discuss raising global climate ambition” ahead of a virtual climate summit that President Biden plans to host for dozens of world leaders later this month.
The trip by Mr. Kerry underscores the Biden administration’s intent to cooperate with China on shared challenges like climate, the coronavirus and nuclear proliferation even as Washington and Beijing are locked in an increasingly fraught political, technological and military competition.
Mr. Biden has made clear that he sees China as a leading strategic threat to America. At a testy diplomatic summit in Anchorage last month, senior Chinese and American officials traded sharply critical assessments of each other’s policies.
The visit by Mr. Kerry comes after the release of a major annual intelligence report on Tuesday that warned China’s effort to expand its growing influence represents one of the largest threats to the United States. China’s strategy, according to the report, is to drive wedges between the United States and its allies. The report also identified climate change as a growing threat to the United States.
Biden officials understand that effectively tackling climate change requires cooperation from China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gas. As secretary of state in the Obama administration, Mr. Kerry himself helped to secure China’s agreement to join the 2015 Paris Climate accords.
Mr. Kerry has already visited multiple nations in his role as Mr. Biden’s envoy for climate matters. In March, Mr. Kerry met with European officials in London, Brussels and Paris. This month, he visited the United Arab Emirates, India and Bangladesh.
While in New Delhi, Mr. Kerry met with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, whose country, among the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases, is also a strategic rival of the United States.