A Global China Export Tax

Use China tax for climate finance and defense of democracy
November 5, 2021 Updated: November 7, 2021


China isn’t like other countries. Its model, under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is to expand its power and control both vertically and horizontally—that is, in both territorial space and the individual’s actions within that space.

This requires maximizing Beijing’s control relative to other countries, including through negotiations over climate issues.

Unlike those that attended November’s COP26 climate negotiations in Glasgow, Beijing strives to beat other countries, not just solve the problem of global warming. It hopes that by skipping negotiations, other countries, subject to greater electoral pressures because they’re democracies, will agree to the necessary carbon reductions without China accepting significant reductions. That would increase China’s economic power relative to democracies, aiding Beijing’s short-term goal of military dominance in Asia, and long-term goal of global hegemony.

For its bare-knuckle power politics of today, the CCP adeptly finds historical justifications. While China is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, it claims that other countries previously emitted more, and so now it’s China’s turn to pollute. Or the 19th-century Opium Wars against China somehow justify China’s complicity today in the production and global distribution of deadly illegal drugs such as fentanyl. Or a nine-dash-line map drawn in the 1930s around the South China Sea—a sea the size of India and used by all countries in the region, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei—makes that vast body of water China’s territory and, therefore, justifies the Chinese navy, today, in ejecting the fishing boats of its neighbors from waters that are just 12 miles off their coastlines, and more than 1,000 miles from those of China.

China leads other authoritarian countries, in particular its most powerful rogue ally, Russia, in flouting their responsibility to further decrease carbon emissions. While the United States and Australia both exceed China in emissions per capita, largely because China is less developed than these AUKUS allies, they cannot decrease their emissions relative to China without losing relative economic and military power. Thus, unilateral emissions reductions, if taken by countries key to the containment of the CCP’s growing totalitarian threat, would be penny wise and pound foolish. They would simply shift the preponderance of economic and military power to Beijing, which has shown no real environmental ethos, but rather one that is exactly contrary to such an ethos: the unmitigated expansion of its own totalitarian power.

Emissions reductions, therefore, can’t be divorced from an understanding of the political situation and trends in each country, and the goals that each country has for the international community. China is the world’s biggest emitter and the world’s biggest economy by purchasing power parity. It’s on track to become the world’s most powerful military, and it’s seeking the expansion of its totalitarian model into an illiberal global hegemony.

Epoch Times Photo
Smoke belches from a coal-fueled power station near Datong, Shanxi province, China, on Nov. 19, 2015. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

Ignoring these facts by allowing China to relatively benefit economically, and therefore militarily, is to quicken the world’s slippage toward a decidedly illiberal end. Considering the CCP’s power-hungry past and its willingness to destroy the environment and to destroy the diversity of its own population through genocide, this can’t be good for the world’s environment or people.

There is a way, however, to both defeat the CCP’s hegemonic aims and simultaneously avoid global warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius. It involves acknowledging that China is different from all other countries, and that the same yardstick can’t apply to its aggressive command economy that can be applied to countries with democratic market economies.

Countries that seek global hegemony through the use of a command economy, which today is only China, should be ring-fenced economically to bring them back to a model of freedom and respect for smaller nations. Decreasing the economic power of China achieves two goals: first, it would significantly decrease global emissions; and second, it would decrease the ability of China to use its powerful economy for military expansion into Taiwan, the South China Sea, Japanese islands, and the Himalayas.

Slowing China’s economy could be achieved through the imposition of a global tax on China’s exports—to be enforced by like-minded international actors including the United States, Europe, Japan, Britain, Australia, and India. The revenues could be used for climate finance and defense expenditures necessary to maintain the international rules-based system against the CCP’s aggression.

Beijing would resist, of course. However, the alternative is to allow China to continue to increase its emissions even as it is the worst emitter, and to use those emissions to leap ahead of other countries economically and militarily. Down that road is likely the end of the environment, the international system of sovereign states, and democracy as we know it. Down that road is likely a global and illiberal hegemony ruled by Beijing.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).