In a surprising turn of events, Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom had an unexpected meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on Wednesday. This visit has raised eyebrows online due to its apparent emphasis on climate change and discussions about the fentanyl crisis, especially as relations between the United States and China have become increasingly tense.
This video shows Newsom and his delegation walking into the meeting. pic.twitter.com/Wliorhpd9f
— Elex Michaelson (@Elex_Michaelson) October 25, 2023
During his brief opening remarks before the meeting with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, Newsom expressed his hope for renewed friendship and engagement on critical issues that will shape our collective future. Newsom’s visit was initially framed as an opportunity to promote cooperation in addressing climate change. However, Chinese officials used welcome speeches before closed-door meetings to touch on U.S.-China relations. It’s worth noting that Wang is scheduled to visit the United States on Thursday.
While Newsom and Xi did discuss ways to accelerate progress on climate change, specific details were not provided. Additionally, they addressed the fentanyl crisis, a synthetic drug responsible for a significant number of deaths among young people in the U.S. China’s role in combating the transnational shipping of precursor chemicals used in fentanyl production was also discussed. Notably, some Republican members of Congress have accused Beijing of facilitating the flow of these chemicals across the U.S.-Mexico border.
California Gov. Newsom has surprise meeting with China's leader Xi amid warm welcome in Beijing https://t.co/jRsF9b1Wpl
— The Associated Press (@AP) October 25, 2023
According to China’s state broadcaster CCTV, Xi expressed hope that Newsom’s visit would enhance mutual understanding between the two sides and play a positive role in expanding cooperation between China and California. This visit underscores the importance of maintaining stable and strong relations between the two largest economies, with their collaborative efforts influencing communities on both sides of the Pacific.
Newsom did not shy away from raising human rights concerns during his meeting with Wang, and the two leaders also touched upon the sensitive topic of Taiwan, which China claims as part of its territory. Newsom voiced support for the One-China policy and expressed a desire to avoid any moves toward Taiwanese independence. Although the U.S. officially does not recognize Taiwan as a separate nation, it maintains an unofficial alliance with the island.
Critics have been quick to respond to Newsom’s visit. Daniel Turner, founder of the nonprofit Power The Future, criticized Newsom for discussing climate change with Chinese authorities while seemingly neglecting California’s fossil fuel workers who have lost their jobs due to his policies. Former Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, cautioned against viewing China as a trusted partner to be emulated.
The Republican National Committee’s Research division pointed out the meeting’s timing, noting that President Biden has been signaling his intention to meet with Xi for over a year. While there is speculation that Xi may attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco next month and potentially meet with President Biden, China has yet to confirm his attendance.
Wang, the head of the Communist Party’s office of foreign affairs, acknowledged the critics but expressed optimism about Newsom’s visit. He believes that time and facts will demonstrate that Newsom’s trip aligns with the wishes of the people of California, the interests of the American people, and the global society’s expectations.
Newsom’s visit also included meetings with Vice President Han Zheng and the head of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, during which they signed a memorandum on deepening cooperation in environmental issues.