The threat of global warming may finally thaw chilly U.S.-China relations

November 11, 2021, 11:10 AM UTC

China and the U.S. issued a surprise joint statement Wednesday pledging to cooperate in the fight against global warming.

The accord, announced by U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua at the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, was light on detail. The two sides agreed to work together to curb methane emissions, protect forests, and phase out coal. They also promised to establish a working group to come up with actions both nations can implement in the current decade.

But that was enough to kindle hope that the world’s two biggest carbon emitters have at last stopped shouting at each other over climate change issues—and that progress on climate might even generate goodwill towards resolving other areas of bilateral conflict including trade, technology, and Taiwan.

Buoying that optimism: a Politico report, published Wednesday, confirming that U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will hold a “virtual summit” on Monday, Nov. 15.

The previous day, leaders of both countries signaled an improvement in relations by striking a positive tone in separate letters of congratulations to mark the 55th anniversary of the National Committee on United States-China Relations, a non-profit advisory organization founded to promote dialogue and cooperation between the two nations. “China stands ready to work with the United States to enhance exchanges and cooperation across the board…so as to bring China-U.S. relations back to the right track of sound and steady development,” Xi said in a letter read out at a gala dinner in New York by China’s ambassador to the U.S. Qin Gang. Biden’s letter, read by NCUSCR chair Jacob Lew, emphasized the “global significance” of U.S.-China relations in tackling mutual challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic and “the existential threat of the climate crisis.”

Could it be that this shared “existential threat” of a hotter planet is helping to thaw a superpower confrontation some analysts have described as “Cold War 2.0“?

Singapore senior minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam made exactly that argument this morning during a virtual dialogue organized by Hong Kong University’s Asia Global Institute and Harvard’s Asia Center. He suggested that the threat of future pandemics could have a similar stabilizing effect on the relationship between the two economic powers. “The challenge of the existential commons provides an opportunity for both countries to cooperate,” Tharman said. To slow climate changes and combat future pandemics, “both countries must show leadership.”

Stakes for Monday’s virtual summit are high. For now, though, Biden aides are setting low expections for the encounter.

More Eastworld news below.

Clay Chandler

This edition of Eastworld was curated and produced by Yvonne Lau. Reach her at  

Eastworld News

Haram crypto

On Thursday Indonesia’s National Ulema Council (MUI)—the country’s top council of Islamic scholars and leaders—forbade Muslims from using cryptocurrencies as an asset. Cryptocurrencies are “haram”—banned under Islamic law—due to the digital coins’ volatility and risks of fraud. If cryptocurrencies prove to be beneficial and can abide by Shariah law, then it can be traded, said Niam Sholeh, the MUI’s head of religious decrees. Bloomberg

Inflation, everywhere  

The U.S. recently recorded its largest inflation jump in three decades, but Asian countries are also dealing with inflationary pressures of their own. China's National Bureau of Statistics reported on Wednesday that its Producer Price Index—which measures prices paid to producers by wholesalers—grew by 13.5% in October from the same time last year, the biggest increase since 1994. Japan's central bank meanwhile reported the highest wholesale inflation level in 40 years, it said on Thursday. Japan's corporate goods price—the average prices that firms charge each other for goods and services—jumped 8% last month from October 2020. Fortune

Fresh downgrade 

S&P Ratings downgraded Chinese property developer Kaisa to a triple C minus on Thursday, noting that the firm might not be able to pay its debt on time: it holds $88 million in coupon payments due on Friday, and $3 billion in bonds due in the next year. Last week, Kaisa missed payments on wealth management products. China's property firms are buckling under increasing pressure from Beijing to offload their debts at a time when property sales are slowing in the country. Financial Times

Alternative investments

New York-headquartered Goldman Sachs has set aside $30 billion for alternative assets in Asia over the next five years, doubling its current alternative investments in the region to a total of $60 billion. Stephanie Hui, the investment bank’s co-head of alternative investing in Asia, said Goldman is looking to fund technology startups, green energy, real estate, and consumer health firms. Goldman in recent months has ramped up its capital fundraising and has recently created its first-ever fundraising team in Asia. Bloomberg

Markets and Movers

Huobi – China-founded Huobi, one of the world’s top cryptocurrency exchanges, is setting up a new, regulated platform in Singapore by year-end, it announced on Wednesday evening. Huobi Singapore is “here to stay for good and committed to complying with local and international regulations,” said executive director CEO of Huobi Singapore, Edward Chen. On Tuesday, the company had surprised the market by revealing that it was shutting down its current platform—a “planned” move to make way for the new exchange, said Chen.

Tencent – Chinese Internet giant Tencent notched 3% profit growth and a 13% revenue increase in Q3, beating expectations. Still, Tencent’s revenue grew at its slowest rate since 2004 as the company adapted to the government’s tech crackdown, which has targeted industries from gaming to education. Tencent president Martin Lau said that the regulatory “impact will be less over time” once companies adjust their operations to the new rules.

Didi – Embattled Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi is preparing to relaunch its app in mainland China by the end of this year as the state’s cyberspace watchdog wraps up its investigation into the company, says a Reuters report. Didi expects government regulators to finalize any penalties on the company in December, and has set aside $1.6 billion for the fine. In July, days after the firm went public in New York, the Cyberspace Administration of China ordered mobile stores to remove Didi’s app; and forced Didi to stop registering new users, citing national security data concerns.

HYBE – South Korean entertainment agency HYBE will team up with Dunamu—the company that runs the country’s largest crypto exchange, Upbit—to launch a new, U.S.-based platform to sell and trade celebrity-focused NFTs. The new NFT company is expected to launch next year. HYBE manages celebrity acts like South Korean boyband BTS and Canadian crooner Justin Bieber. The company already operates its own online fan community called Weverse, which has been downloaded over 41 million times.

Little Red Book – Little Red Book, or "Xiaohongshu" as the social media e-commerce app is known in Mandarin, has raised $500 million in a funding round this week, boosting the company's valuation to $20 billion, according to a source familiar with the matter. Investors in the fundraising round includes Chinese Internet giants Tencent and Alibaba; venture capital funds Genesis Capital and Tiantu Capital; and Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek. Little Red Book lets users post product reviews and shopping experiences photos and short videos; and operates an e-commerce portal called RED Mall.

Final Figure

12 weeks

Foodies in Hong Kong are out of luck—at least for the next 12 weeks, anyway. Given Hong Kong's strict COVID quarantine measures, travel-starved locals are dining out like never before, and reservations at the city’s hottest tables have racked up months-long waiting lists. Cantonese restaurant the Chairman—named Asia’s best restaurant of 2021 by World’s 50 Best Restaurants—has no tables available until the end of the year and has stopped taking reservations for January. Hong Kong restaurant reservations booked in September surged 250% compared to September two years ago, before the pandemic began.

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