Climate change, cyber security highlight Obama, Xi meeting

US President Barack Obama welcomes his Chinese counterpart to White House amid tensions over cyber security, while leaders express common cause to fight climate change

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping hold a joint news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on September 25, 2015

Updated Sep 26, 2015

US President Barack Obama hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at the White House on Friday amid simmering tensions between the world’s two largest economies over accusations against China for hacking US federal institutions and private companies and its land reclamation over the South China Sea.

US and Chinese officials launched the summit with an issue which they both hold the same stance on with cooperation over the “the global fight against climate change.”

"We must uphold the right direction of building a new model of major country relations, make sure our relationship is defined by peace, respect and cooperation, and see to it that it keeps moving forward on the sound track of steady growth," Xi said.

However, Obama pointed out some disagreements underscoring a growing rivalry between the world’s two biggest economic powers.

"Even as our nations cooperate, I believe and I know you agree, that we must address our differences candidly. The United States will always speak out on behalf of fundamental truths," Obama said.

The US President added, referring the allegations that China’s spies hacked US firms for commercial gains, “we believe nations are more successful and the world makes more progress when our companies compete on a level playing field, when disputes are resolved peacefully and when the universal human rights of all people are upheld.”

On climate change, Xi said that the US and China would "work together to push Paris Climate Change conference to produce important progress."

Xi confirmed that China would launch a national carbon cap-and-trade system in 2017 to help contain the country’s emissions. This system will limit carbon emissions and open up markets for companies to buy and sell the right to produce emissions.

Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe who talked to TRT World stated that these two countries were reluctant to come to an agreement on climate change in the past and it is important that they made this progress. Trio added that Xi is expected to announce installation of carbon trade mechanism by 2017 and Obama has agreed to support the concept of decarbonisation of the economy.

"It is important for Europe and European Union to build for alliance and both of them try to increase level of ambition ,in a way EU still wants both countries to do more than currently they are doing" Trio stated.

During Obama’s visit to Beijing last November, the two countries agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, in what was seen as a landmark moment for the world’s two worst polluters. The US said that they would "reduce emissions in the US power sector by 32 percent by 2030."

China also said it would set aside a fund of $3.1 billion to support developing countries fighting climate change.

US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama wave from the White House balcony with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng Liyuan during an official State visit in Washington on September 25, 2015

The United States accused China of being involved in hacking of government and commercial computer systems.

Aside from climate change, the President of China pointed out the cyber attack issue stating that his country is against all types of cyber-crime, such as hacking of foreign companies for profit.

"China strongly opposes and combats the theft of commercial secrets and other kinds of hacking attacks," he said.

Obama made it clear on Friday that he and Xi reached a “common understanding” on addressing cyber spying and agreed that neither would conduct or knowingly support hacking.

"I indicated it has to stop," Obama said. "We've agreed that neither the US or the Chinese government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information for commercial advantage."

Obama also expressed his concerns over Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, saying that territory reclamation in disputed areas made it harder to “resolve disagreements peacefully."

"I encouraged a resolution between claimants in these areas. We are not a claimant. We just want to make sure that the rules of the road are upheld," Obama told a joint press conference.

Chinese President Xi Jinping stated that China wanted to solve any disputes in the South China Sea peacefully and protect the freedom of navigation and overflights, adding that the construction in the sea did not target any country.

"Islands in the South China Sea since ancient times are China's territory. We have the right to uphold our own sovereignty and lawful and legitimate maritime rights and interests," Xi said after a meeting with US President Barack Obama.

"We are committed to maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea, managing differences and disputes with a dialogue... Confrontation and friction are not the right choice," he added.

TRTWorld and agencies