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Steven Chu, who faces confirmation hearings in the Senate today, is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on renewable energy. But less known is the fact that he presents the United States with a unique opportunity to make progress in its ongoing dialogue with China on climate change (see for example this commentary on UPI Asia).

Chu is the son of immigrants who came to the United States to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. China takes enormous pride in his accomplishments, indeed his nomination was front page news in almost every major newspaper in China. His Nobel Prize received similar coverage in 1997, when it was noted that he is the fifth person of Chinese ethnicity to win this prestigious award. He is a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and has trained several prominent scientists in China. He was also instrumental in establishing the Bio-X Center at Jiaotong University in Shanghai, and serves as the center’s honorary director. As a result of all this, Chu enjoys direct access to China’s political leaders and has visited China several times over the past decade.
As with other nominations of individuals with recent immigrant backgrounds, Chu’s ties to China are a great asset. Thus far, we have not made much progress in our conversations with China on global warming and climate change. Of course our actions in terms of our own energy policy will be the most critical factor in changing course. With the selection of Steven Chu, we have a unique opportunity to make real progress with the Chinese government and the Chinese scientific community on this issue.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.