China watchers were fixated on the bilateral meeting between U.S. and Chinese presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping last week.
So, what did the U.S. and China achieve? And what are the implications for the geopolitical landscape, and wider business environment, in 2024?
The leaders did manage to find some common ground, reestablishing military-to-military dialogues and agreeing to narcotics control and AI systems safety. But there was a sense of disappointment that little progress was made on other key issues, including Ukraine, Israel-Hamas, Taiwan and long-standing concerns among U.S. firms about fair access to the China market.
In the U.S: The summit's achievements will not be enough to appease critics who argue the Administration is making too many concessions for little in return. And it is unlikely to substantially change the key points of tension in the relationship.
In China: Official coverage focused on President Xi Jinping’s central message that he seeks “peaceful coexistence” between China and the U.S., reflecting China’s desire to be seen by the global community as a responsible diplomatic player. But hawkish foreign policy observers were quick to remind their audiences that the U.S. still cannot be fully trusted – which may reflect why China was less willing to offer big incentives.
In the corporate world: The fact that a face-to-face Xi-Biden meeting happened at all is a welcome sign for the business community. But the climate for cross-border U.S.-China business has changed permanently for the worse over the last several years. But most multinationals will not withdraw from China, nor will Chinese companies give up their global ambitions, which still include the U.S. There is still willingness to find a way to do business, despite regulatory barriers. And most don’t want to ally themselves with only one country. These days, that means more than just positioning – spinoffs, splits, joint ventures, divestments, greenfield investing, and re-domiciling are among the new cross-border strategies and options, as well as a thick skin, strong resolve and flexibility.
Find our in-depth analysis here.
In the lead-up to COP28, we’re highlighting four key thematic days and how businesses can connect their program and media engagement to the official agenda. This week we’re looking at the Health landscape with Kate Ackerman and Elly Burke.
On the agenda:
December 3 is Health Day, when COP28 will host the first climate-health ministerial to build consensus on priority actions for the health system’s response to climate change, paired with financing commitments for implementation.
What is the main challenge?
Climate change and its impacts on human health are becoming more visible in our everyday lives. Increased heat stress and air pollution worsen illnesses such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. More frequent severe weather threatens food and water security. And shifting climatic conditions cause infectious diseases such as malaria to reach new regions and countries. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable among us are often the most impacted by climate change and the least able to navigate its effects.
What are the key trends in this space and the most prominent solutions on the table?
European policymakers are developing heat protection plans, which might include providing free drinking water and shelter during heatwaves. In the US, the White House and Department of Health and Human Services put forward a Health Sector Climate Pledge, signed by hundreds of the largest health sector companies and organizations in the U.S., committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 and adopt plans to strengthen resilience to climate change, protect public health and lower costs.
Who are the key actors to watch?
Both the private and the public sector are ramping up their ambitions to protect human health against the impacts of climate change. While private sector action can be expected to be driven by large corporations that can offer medical treatment and innovative solutions through R&D, the UAE’s COP28 Presidency aims to strengthen the role of start-ups by providing a dedicated accelerator zone. Additionally, NGOs and foundations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, are a crucial addition to providing on-the-ground knowledge and actionable perspectives.
Find our other sector deep dives here.
Recently an interesting trend has emerged in the global effort to regulate AI.
Government leaders around the world, including key Biden administration officials, have focused their attention on regulating so-called Frontier AI: highly capable foundation models that can exceed the capabilities currently present in the most advanced AI models, and thus pose significant threats to public safety and national security. But some private sector actors worry policymakers are focusing too much on containing the harms of future AI models, potentially stifling innovation.
The recent UK AI Safety Summit is a case in point. Many governments used that moment to make new commitments to address the most serious threats from rapid AI advancements. And 28 countries, including the U.S. and China, endorsed the Bletchley Declaration on AI Safety, the world’s first agreement on the opportunities and risks associated with frontier AI.
Some leading AI providers have joined the push. Over the summer, for example, Anthropic, Google, Microsoft and OpenAI launched the Frontier Model Forum to ensure the "safe and responsible development" of the most powerful AI models.
But the focus on these Frontier models has drawn criticism from some civil society groups and tech industry skeptics, who are pushing governments to instead prioritize mitigating harms currently posed by existing AI models such as deepfakes and racial discrimination.
And as President Biden’s recently signed AI Executive Order begins to be implemented, it has drawn pushback from some venture capitalists and other industry players who are voicing concerns the EO’s approach is too focused on the potential problems posed by Gen AI and could limit innovation.