Beijing Wants to Sway US Policy Using Climate Change, Experts Warn

Beijing Wants to Sway US Policy Using Climate Change, Experts Warn
Then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) and then Chinese Vice Chair Xi Jinping talk during an expanded bilateral meeting with other U.S. and Chinese officials in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington on Feb. 14, 2012. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Cathy He
The Biden administration should not allow the Chinese regime to use climate change as a bargaining chip to extract concessions in other areas, according to China experts.
The warning comes as the United States formally rejoined the Paris agreement on Feb. 19. President Joe Biden has described climate change as an “existential threat” and vowed to do more to reduce carbon emissions. But analysts are concerned that this may lead the United States to become cozier with the Chinese regime. 
While Biden officials have broadly indicated they would continue the Trump administration’s tough-on-China posture, they have also pointed to “cooperative” aspects of the U.S.-China relationship.  
On the campaign trail, Biden said he’d work with the regime in areas of common interest, such as climate change and preventing nuclear proliferation. 
Experts fear that U.S. cooperation on climate change could lead the administration to give ground in other key domains such as human rights, trade, and national security. 
The Chinese regime has already indicated that the United States would have to accept its own terms before the two sides could work together.
“China is ready to cooperate with the United States and the international community on climate change,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Jan. 28.
“That said, I'd like to stress that China-U.S. cooperation in specific areas ... is closely linked with bilateral relations as a whole,” Zhao continued, adding the regime has repeatedly emphasized that “no one should imagine they could ask China to understand and support them in bilateral and global affairs when they blatantly interfere in China’s domestic affairs and undermine China’s interests.”
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has labeled a range of topics such as its repression of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, the crackdown in Hong Kong, and intimidation of Taiwan as part of its core interests, and not open for discussion. 
Zhao’s comments were made after Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry pledged that important issues including the CCP’s theft of intellectual property (IP) and military aggression in the South China Sea “will never be traded for anything that has to do with climate.”
But Kerry added that “climate is a critical standalone issue,” noting that China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases at about 30 percent. 
 “So it’s urgent that we find a way to compartmentalize, to move forward,” he said.
Gordon Chang, author of “The Coming Collapse of China,” recently told The Epoch Times that it would not be possible for the United States to cooperate with the regime given the conditions it imposes. 
“China’s position is that you either have good relationships with us on everything, or on nothing,” Chang said.
“If we’re given that choice, it should be nothing. Because China is trying to constrict those areas where we can have a constructive discussion.”
In any event, the United States does not need to offer anything to get the regime to take action on climate, Chang noted.
“The Chinese are on the same planet that we are,” he said. “So they’ve got the same interest in preventing climate change to the extent that it’s occurring, so we don’t need to give them anything for it.”
Any negotiations with the regime on climate change would also be a waste of time, according to Clyde Prestowitz, author of “The World Turned Upside Down: America, China, and The Struggle for Global Leadership.”
Prestowitz, who was a trade negotiator for the Reagan administration, said “China is not going to negotiate any deal that would be acceptable to us.”
“You cannot rely on China to keep its word,” he added.  
Former Trump security official Matthew Pottinger has similarly warned about getting stuck in “negotiation traps” set by Beijing. He said successive U.S. administrations squandered years in formal talks with China that did not yield concrete results, which allowed the regime to continue harmful actions against the United States such as IP theft. 
To cut emissions, Chang suggested the United States stop buying from China and start re-shoring manufacturing back to the United States, given that the shipping industry is a heavy polluter. 
“That way will do a lot for the climate, in addition to having, of course, some other very critical knock-on benefits for us,” he said. 
Cathy He is the politics editor at the Washington D.C. bureau. She was previously an editor for U.S.-China and a reporter covering U.S.-China relations.
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