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Gavin Newsom, on Climate Mission to China, Gets an Audience With Xi

Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, met with China’s leader, Xi Jinping, in Beijing on Wednesday, according to the Chinese state media, as part of an ambitious weeklong mission to negotiate climate partnerships.

The two-term Democratic governor wants California to set an aggressive pace for the United States — and the world — to cut carbon emissions that are dangerously heating the planet. Mr. Newsom’s moves to tackle the climate crisis have elevated his national profile, just as he is widely believed to be preparing for a White House run in 2028.

On the diplomatic front, Mr. Newsom’s visit is the latest in a flurry of exchanges between Chinese and American officials and businesspeople that have raised expectations that Mr. Xi might travel to the United States next month. Earlier this month, Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, also met in Beijing with Mr. Xi, who struck an amicable tone, saying that there were “a thousand reasons” the two countries should make their relationship work.

Mr. Xi met with Mr. Newsom in the Great Hall of the People, a grand building on the west side of Tiananmen Square where he often receives dignitaries. In an official summary of the meeting published by Chinese state media, Mr. Xi was quoted as saying he hoped Mr. Newsom’s visit would help promote ties between their countries.

Mr. Xi also “happily recalled his visit to California,” according to the official summary, potentially referring to a summit with President Barack Obama at the Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage, Calif., in 2013.

China has not said if Mr. Xi would attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, summit, in San Francisco, next month, or meet with President Biden. But the potential visit is expected to be high on the agenda of Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat, during Mr. Wang’s talks in the United States later this week.

In a conversation with Mr. Wang on Wednesday, Mr. Newsom invoked San Francisco and Shanghai’s relationship as “sister cities” since 1980, adding that he hoped to deepen connections between California and China. “I’m here in expectation, as you suggest, of turning the page, of renewing our friendship and re-engaging on foundational and fundamental issues that will determine our collective faith in the future,” he said.

Chinese state media outlets have hailed Mr. Newsom’s visit for its potential to improve ties, which have been challenged by an escalating disputes over trade, technology and China’s increasingly assertive claims over Taiwan, the island democracy.

The Global Times, a nationalist Communist Party newspaper, wrote in an opinion piece that among American officials who have visited China, Mr. Newsom has received “at least one of the highest levels of attention.”

“To be honest, Chinese people currently lack faith in Washington as a whole and have distrust toward some U.S. politicians,” the newspaper wrote. “However, the welcome for Governor Newsom’s visit is sincere and warm, as ‘it is always a pleasure to greet a friend from afar.’”

On Tuesday, Mr. Newsom toured a zero-emission electric bus fleet in Shenzhen, home to leading electric vehicle companies and car battery makers in the country. He has signed a climate partnership with Guangdong Province, setting targets on reducing carbon reliance and achieving higher rates of renewable energy use. Mr. Newsom plans to sign similar agreements with four other Chinese provinces during this visit.

Back home, Mr. Newsom has signed a raft of laws and regulations to accelerate America’s most populous state away from fossil fuels, including a ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035 and a mandate to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2045. He wants to end oil drilling in his state, a major oil producer, also by 2045.

Claire Fu contributed research.

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