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Clinton talks climate change with China

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Tess Vigeland: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Beijing today and through the weekend. She’s talk with Chinese leaders about how to ride out this global recession. But she also wants to tackle climate change. China and the U.S. are the world’s biggest sources of carbon emissions. From Shanghai, Marketplace’s Scott Tong reports.

Scott Tong: Together, China and the U.S. exhale 40 percent of the world’s carbon. Secretary Clinton thinks the two can collaborate to reduce that footprint. And Saturday she tours a clean-burning natural gas power plant, run jointly by General Electric and a Chinese company. James McGregor is an author and consultant in Beijing.

James McGregor: The leadership of Beijing, their children and grandchildren, are breathing the same polluted air that I breathe every day. So I think there’s going to be some nice talk that comes out of the secretary’s visit.

And that talk may turn into action in December. That’s when Copenhagen hosts a global climate summit. And the big question is whether China and the U.S. agree to cap carbon emissions. For now, Industrial China relies largely on fossil fuels. In fact, Beijing this week committed $35 billion to lock in crude oil supplies from Brazil and Russia.

McGregor: Prices are down, China’s got money. If I was in their seat, I’d be doing the same thing.

China is also buying up U.S. bonds. Right now it holds about $700 billion worth. And Chinese leaders are looking for Clinton for explicit assurances those bonds are secure. Pan Rui teaches at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Pan Rui: If the U.S. dollar weakens or depreciates, our investments will have lost value. If that happens, we’ll be less motivated to buy more.

China’s not the only buyer in the market, but it’s an important one. Last fall it leapfrogged Japan to become the largest foreign holder of U.S. government debt.

In Shanghai, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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