The Surprising Reason The Chinese President's First U.S. Visit Could Be Huge

Take note.

Tuesday marks Chinese President Xi Jinping's first visit to the United States as leader of the economic giant. He'll fly first into Seattle and then travel on to Washington, D.C. and New York City. Much has been made of the  political maneuverings of both countries prior to his visit, and questions about cybersecurity and potential military threats in the South China Sea remain. 

But both China and the U.S. — the largest and second-largest emitters of greenhouse gas in the world, respectively — seem poised to cooperate on one issue in particular and it's worth underscoring.

Last week, the two countries' top climate change negotiators met in Los Angeles, and agreed to work with city governments to reduce emissions and support clean energy on a local level. The negotiations cemented November's landmark agreement between Xi and Obama to collaborate on curbing carbon emissions globally. And experts predict that more good news may follow.

Woman on a hazy Beijing day in 2014. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images.
Woman on a hazy Beijing day in 2014. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images.

Pollution in Beijing has been making headlines of late and the Los Angeles deal — which sets the capital and 10 other Chinese cities a decade ahead of schedule to reduce emissions — marks an apparent shift in Xi's approach to climate change. China has come around.

"While vested interests and an overriding focus on high growth rates traditionally have worked against green policies, climate policies clearly have other major benefits for China: from addressing rising public concern about air pollution, to positioning the country as a leading exporter of clean technologies," Chinese environmental policy expert Sam Gealle wrote in Foreign Policy.

Small changes are being made and it's looking hopeful. With a first stop in Seattle, there's no doubt that investment in clean energy and technology is a focus of Xi's visit. 

"They see this as a huge business opportunity for the future, especially in solar and wind," National Bureau of Asian Research energy security program Director Mikkal Herberg told the Associated Press. "They want to be a global leader in renewable energy technology. They want to be a leader in nuclear energy."

Cover image via  Feng Li/Getty Images.