And China's growing investment and influence in sub-Saharan Africa, where it's surpassed the U.S. as the largest trading partner, was on display last month as Obama traveled the continent.
"There are pressures on the U.S. and China to do something about global warming, and it happens to fit in with the idea of expanding cooperation to try to contain and hopefully reverse the growing strategic rivalry," said a former U.S. Ambassador to China, J. Stapleton Roy. The White House hopes that political pressure from China's expanding middle class may spur China to further action.
It remains to be seen whether the cooperation on climate will extend much beyond diplomatic niceties. After all, the U.S. and China have at times made similar pronouncements, said Elizabeth Economy, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"There are many, many good ideas that simply don't come to fruition," Economy said. "There are reasons why it hasn't worked very well in the past. As far as I can see, those same reasons exist today."
AP Business Writer Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.
Follow Josh Lederman on Twitter: http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.