China Wants US to Fulfill Demands in Exchange for Climate Change Cooperation

By Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
November 3, 2021 Updated: November 5, 2021

Beijing wants Washington to soften its China policies before working with the United States on climate change, as the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) continues in Glasgow.

“You can’t ask China to cut coal production on the one hand, while at the same time imposing sanctions on Chinese photovoltaic enterprises,” said Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, during a daily briefing on Nov. 2.

In June, the Biden administration made several moves to confront Beijing regarding forced labor allegations in China’s far-western Xinjiang region, where more than 1 million Uyghurs are being detained in internment camps. The U.S. government has characterized the communist regime’s treatment of Uyghurs as genocide.

The Department of Labor added polysilicon produced in China to its “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.” Then the Commerce Department added five Chinese companies—among them silicon manufacturer Hoshine Silicon Industry—to its trade blacklist. Finally, the Department of Homeland Security issued a withhold release order, banning the import of silica-based materials made by Hoshine and its subsidiaries, as well as overseas products made with Hoshine materials.

Photovoltaic panels, a type of solar panel, are made from polysilicon, which is produced by purifying metallurgical grade silica.

Wenbin isn’t the first Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official to say there are strings attached if Washington wants Beijing’s cooperation on combating climate change.

In September, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told visiting Biden administration climate envoy John Kerry that “China–U.S. climate cooperation cannot be separated from the wider environment of the Sino–U.S. relations.”

Yi also told Kerry that Washington must respond to its demands and that the United States should “take practical actions to improve Sino–U.S. relations.”

China’s state-run media outlets have also preached the same narrative. On Nov. 1, China’s hawkish state-run Global Times, in an editorial on the climate conference, accused U.S. policy toward China of being “wicked and arrogant,” which it said made it “impossible for China to see any potential to have fair negotiation amid the tensions.”

That policy includes “attacks on China’s human rights,” a “crackdown on Chinese tech companies,” and voicing support for Taiwan to “contain China’s rise,” according to the article.

China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, which is a major source of carbon dioxide emissions. In September 2020, Chinese leader Xi Jinping made an environmental pledge, declaring that China’s carbon emissions would peak before 2030 and that the nation would reach carbon neutrality by 2060.

Xi, who has chosen to not attend COP26, called for stronger action on climate change in a written statement for the climate conference. He didn’t make new environmental pledges.

Xi’s absence has drawn criticism. On Nov. 2, President Joe Biden told a press conference that it was a “big mistake” that Xi didn’t show up at the climate conference.

“How do you do that and claim to have any leadership mantle?” Biden said.

At the same time, Chinese officials haven’t been holding back on criticizing the United States on its climate action.

“China–U.S. joint efforts resulted in the Paris Agreement. … You can’t just give up, but the U.S. gave up,” Chinese climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua told reporters at Glasgow. “Five years were wasted, but now we need to work harder and catch up.”

Former President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 Paris Agreement, but Biden reentered the agreement after taking office on Jan. 20.

On Nov. 3, Zhang Jun, China’s ambassador to the U.N., took to Twitter to criticize the United States for “blame shifting” and having “backpedaled its climate policies many times.”

Anders Corr, principal at the New York-based political consultancy firm Corr Analytics, questioned the communist regime’s sincerity in its carbon emission promises in his analysis for The Epoch Times on Nov. 1.

“But even if the regime in Beijing promises the world, it will be next to meaningless without immediate and verifiable achievements in meeting short-term milestones,” Corr wrote, pointing to how Beijing broke its promise to safeguard Hong Kong’s autonomy under the 1984 Sino–British Joint Declaration.

“So until China democratizes or definitively limits its emissions, the world’s more responsible nations should impose economic sanctions on China in the form of coordinated climate tariffs.”

In response to a query from The Epoch Times, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said that Washington is committed to its climate goals and will cooperate with all countries to address the climate crisis.

“We will continue to stand up for human rights and will not be complicit in China’s abusive and unfair trade and labor practices by importing into the United States products that are tainted by forced labor,” the spokesperson said.

Reuters contributed to the article. 

This article was updated to add comments from the U.S. State Department. 

Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.