Beijing Cements Washington’s Climate Fail

September 5, 2021 Updated: September 8, 2021

Commentary

The Biden administration’s recent visit to China has highlighted Washington’s failure to fix the climate change problem.

Most scientists say greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) are causing irreversible global warming, and if we don’t make changes quickly, like burning less fossil fuel, then irreversible climate catastrophe will result. China is the world’s biggest emitter by far, but shows no interest in scaling back despite abject pleas from America’s climate czar, John Kerry.

Joe Biden got elected promising to make the changes necessary to avoid that end. But he failed, and for two main reasons. First, his administration is encouraging OPEC countries to pump more oil, which will decrease its global price and increase consumption. More consumption results in more emissions.

Second, President Biden is making unilateral climate concessions that decrease American production of oil, which will let Beijing off the hook. China emits about double the greenhouse gas of America. After surrendering all of America’s bargaining leverage, the Chinese regime will be increasingly empowered to force economically-debilitating emissions concessions on other countries. America will then be too weak to force China to decrease emissions.

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A sandstorm is engulfing a village in Linze county, in the city of Zhangye in China’s northwestern Gansu Province on April 25, 2021. (STR/CNS/AFP via Getty Images)

Thus, the main effect of Biden’s so-called environmentalism is to squelch American economic competitiveness, which we need to ease Beijing into responsible environmental stewardship, not to mention protect the world from the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) militarism and totalitarian rule. Biden is therefore not only doing too little to stop climate change, he’s making it worse by allowing Xi Jinping to increase his power. Biden’s environmental supporters should be outraged, but they are not. So Biden is responding to their false impression that if America leads through unilateral emissions reductions, the world will follow. That’s not going to happen.

Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, will eagerly fill any energy market that the United States, from the goodness of our hearts, abandons. The CCP, desperate for justificatory economic growth and in military competition with the United States, will continue in its emissions, ignoring past commitments to hit peak carbon in 2030, and neutrality by 2060.

To understand why, consider this fact: The CCP plans to race America economically, until China defeats us. America’s belief in democracy, and the CCP’s power-hungry totalitarianism, are on a collision course. Only one will survive.

The CCP commitments on emissions reductions are cheap talk, and like many of its agreements, are unworthy of the paper on which they are written. The regime’s repeated abrogation of promises include a failure to support the Paris Agreement of 2015. China has funded almost 70 percent of the world’s coal plant construction over the past decade, in 152 countries, through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also called One Belt, One Road). Building power plants is good for China’s economy, so the regime wants to continue.

Yet, America keeps returning to China, foolishly seeking engagement and cooperation, only to have its hopes dashed, again and again. The more we seek cooperation, the weaker we look, and the more latitude Xi Jinping realizes he has.

The CCP’s crushing power against Biden was on display for all to see during John Kerry’s humiliating four-day visit to Tianjin, China, from Aug. 31 to Sept. 3. The visit served as an occasion for Chinese officials, including politburo member Yang Jiechi on a video call, to publicly lecture Kerry about America’s supposed lack of cooperation with China, which he said needs to be rectified if the United States hopes for any ostensible climate cooperation in return.

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Top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi in Washington on Nov. 09, 2018. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On Sept. 1, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Kerry that “cooperation on climate change cannot be divorced from the overall situation of China-U.S. relations.”

Beijing is thus denying that China itself needs climate cooperation, which is a form of madman brinkmanship that walks the world to the brink of climate disaster, as if the CCP does not at all mind plunging off the climate cliff. The regime’s goal is to use environmental scare tactics to force America and its allies into yet more unilateral concessions, and in the process, to get America’s grudging acquiescence to the regime’s territorial expansion and violation of human rights.

More specifically, the CCP’s demands are an end to three American defenses of democracy. First, it wants an end to sanctions against Chinese officials, who have committed the Uyghur genocide and abrogated the rights of Hongkongers. Second, it wants the United States to ease counter-espionage against Chinese spies. And third, it wants us to abandon the defense of Taiwan and essentially surrender the island democracy over to the whims of the regime.

Concessions on any of these points would be unconscionable, and a signal to the world that America has lost in its global defense of democracy.

The CCP’s climate brinkmanship rests on the threat that America will boil from the climate change that China’s industrial growth is causing. America will choke on the smog of its own intemperate and immoral consumerism, that has long taken advantage of the cheap labor and low environmental standards to be found in China. Those low standards shaved a few pennies off the price of our Amazon packages, but at the cost of American industrial strength and jobs in the heartland. They destroyed our economic defenses against the regime’s predatory trade practices.

The CCP “hopes the U.S. is woolly-headed enough to trade away its security priorities for unenforceable climate promises,” writes the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, which was critical of Kerry’s climate negotiations.

The framing of Kerry’s visit to China illustrates America’s weak position. On Sept. 2, Kerry was photographed in Tianjin, far from Beijing, the center of power in China. He sat alone at a plain table with a modest American flag in front of a small folding screen on which was a Chinese painting of a peacock. The screen was dwarfed by a large wall made of cheap paneling. A garish blue plate gave Kerry’s name in small English letters, with larger Chinese lettering at the top.

After being lectured like a schoolboy, Kerry consoled himself to reporters, saying that most of his meetings were at a very detailed level with Xie Zhenhua. But, Xie is a relatively low-level Chinese negotiator, whereas Kerry holds a cabinet-level position. Thus already at the negotiating table, China has forced a concession onto the Biden administration. As the more senior negotiating partner, Kerry is likely to reveal America’s bottom line in Tianjin, whereas Xie must check any proposal through layers of bureaucracy, thus protecting Xi Jinping’s moving bottom line.

The Chinese regime is outmaneuvering the United States on climate negotiations, in Afghanistan, in Hong Kong, and at the United Nations, to name just a few places. America must get back on track, and quickly, or there will be no returning from the cliff over which we plunge, alone, leaving Beijing to rule this smoggy world.

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).