President Biden said at a COP26 press conference on Tuesday that Chinese leader Xi Jinping made a “big mistake” by not showing up to the UN climate summit, suggesting that Beijing has “lost an ability to influence” other countries as a result.
Why it matters: China is the world’s largest source of greenhouse gases, but made no new commitments at COP26.
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Xi has not left the country since January 2020 due to coronavirus concerns, and declined to travel to both the G20 in Rome and the landmark climate summit in Scotland this week — submitting only a written statement.
Biden had similarly tough words for Russia, whose President Vladimir Putin was also glaringly absent from COP26.
What they’re saying: “We showed up. We showed up. And by showing up, we’ve had a profound impact on the way I think the rest of the world is looking at the United States and its leadership role,” Biden said in his final remarks before departing the summit on Tuesday.
“I think it’s been a big mistake, quite frankly, for China not showing up. The rest of the world looked at China and said, ‘Well, what value are they providing?’ And they’ve lost an ability to influence people around the world and all the people at COP,” he continued.
The big picture: Biden was asked whether he was concerned that the potential for armed conflict with China had grown since he had taken office, given the tense state of relations and China’s buildup of its nuclear capabilities.
“No, I’m not,” Biden responded, noting that he has stressed in his conversations with Xi that the U.S-China competition does not need to tip over into conflict.
“I have also indicated to him, and I’m not reluctant to say it publicly, that we expect him to play by the rules of the road,” he added.
What to watch: Biden reiterated that he and Xi are expected to hold a virtual summit some time before the end of the year.
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