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SHANGHAI: Chinese President Xi Jinping will join a virtual climate summit with France and Germany, Beijing announced Thursday, as US envoy John Kerry visited Shanghai to drum up support from the world’s biggest polluter for America’s drive to address environmental challenges.

Kerry, President Joe Biden’s climate tsar, is in China for meetings with his counterparts until Saturday — the first visit by an official from the new US administration.

Kerry is not expected to meet with Xi, on a trip which has so far taken place behind closed doors.

But Beijing unexpectedly announced Xi would join an online French-German climate summit on Friday “at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron”.

Kerry’s trip is seen as a chance for Beijing and Washington to put aside high political tensions — following a heated initial meeting last month between diplomats in the US — and focus on areas of potential climate collaboration.

The two sides clashed in Alaska over accusations about China’s policies in Hong Kong and its treatment of Uyghurs in its northwestern Xinjiang region — criticisms Beijing rejects as interference in its domestic affairs.

Biden has made reversing the climate-sceptic policy of his predecessor Donald Trump a priority, and is hosting a virtual summit of world leaders next week.

Chinese leader Xi has been invited to the US-led summit but is yet to confirm if he will attend.

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