United States climate envoy John Kerry’s visit to China this week is the first by a top official of the current administration since Joe Biden took office as president three months ago. It comes ahead of President Xi Jinping’s expected attendance at a virtual climate summit to be hosted by his US counterpart next week. This is a chance for the two biggest carbon-emitters to steer their relations back towards cooperation amid a deep rift most recently exposed during a frosty meeting in Alaska in which barbs were traded between senior US and Chinese officials. Climate policy may have been only one of many issues between the two sides, but it is one on which they have now said they can work together. In that respect it is symbolically important. So long as they could not agree on anything much, one of them – in this case the US – had to be seriously out of step on climate change, if not a denier. It was a surreal element of a political and ideological difference that could not stand. Biden’s prompt decision to rejoin the Paris Agreement and now the summit scheduled for Earth Day has put it behind them. It may be a small step, amid conflict over issues ranging from trade and technology to human rights to territorial and navigational disputes in the South China Sea. But, hopefully, it will open up a path for working together that can be widened in time. Kerry is expected to meet his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua, a long-serving climate diplomat recently reappointed as special envoy. Xie was the chief negotiator on the Paris Agreement on global warming signed by most countries. Calls for US, China to work together and ‘set example’ on climate change Their talks can be expected to focus on reaching a degree of consensus on what Xi and Biden might achieve by taking part in the summit, over and above just talking. Domestically, given the hard line taken against China, Biden will want to show a positive result from the summit, which means he will need China to agree on some basic issues. Equally, China will expect some positive feedback from the US. The visit by Kerry, a former US secretary of state, is high-level preparation aimed at ensuring that both leaders get something out of the summit. It reflects the reality that on climate change, as on other great issues, the two sides need each other.