Chinese Regime Cannot Be Trusted on Climate Pledges: GOP Lawmakers

Journalists watch a screen showing China's Leader Xi Jinping delivering a speech during the opening of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference 2021 in Boao, Hainan province, China, on April 20, 2021. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)
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BY CATHY HE

As Chinese Leader Xi Jinping made his first appearance with President Joe Biden at the White House’s virtual global climate summit on April 22, Republican lawmakers are warning his administration against cooperating with Beijing on climate change.

Citing the regime’s long track-record of breaking its promises, they say the Chinese regime cannot be trusted to act upon any commitments to reduce its emissions that it may make. They also fear that the Biden administration may make concessions to Beijing to get its cooperation on climate, at the expense of other crucial issues including human rights and the regime’s unfair trade practices.

At the summit, Xi said the country would  “strictly limit” increasing coal consumption in the next five years, and phase it down in the following five years.

China is the world’s largest coal-user, by far, and is continuing to build more coal-fired power stations. It is also the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Xi also repeated a pledge from last year to achieve net zero emissions by 2060. In a conciliatory note, Xi added that “China looks forward to working with the international community, including with the United States” on tackling climate change.

His tone stood in stark contrast with that of the regime’s top two diplomats at a meeting last month with Biden officials in Alaska. In a public blowup, Chinese Communist Party officials Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi dressed down Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan after the U.S. officials criticized the regime over a range of issues including its human rights abuses, economic coercion, and military aggression.

Xi’s appearance at the summit came a week after U.S. special envoy John Kerry last week traveled to China to meet with Chinese officials to discuss “raising global climate ambition.” His trip was the first high-level visit to China by a Biden administration official since the new president took office. After the talks, the two countries, in a joint statement, agreed that stronger pledges to fight climate change should be introduced before a new round of international talks at the end of the year.

Some Republican lawmakers objected to Kerry’s trip, saying it was a fruitless endeavor.

“Communist China will never honor any climate agreement. These ‘negotiations’ make America look soft and harm the discussions about our primary interests regarding national security and human rights,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said in a tweet on April 14.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 23, 2021. (Erin Scott/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) described the visit as “sending the absolute wrong signal.”

“The PRC [People’s Republic of China] is the world’s largest carbon emitter and backer of coal power. Now reporting from Bloomberg is further revealing that forced labor and polluting industries are central to the PRC’s superficial green energy plans,” McCaul said last week.

Recent reports have raised questions over whether made-in-China solar products, including polysilicon, use forced labor from Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese regime has embarked on an expansive campaign of repression.

Polysilicon is the key raw material used to produce solar panels that generate electricity from sunlight. Three factories in Xinjiang collectively produce nearly half the world’s polysilicon supply, Bloomberg reported.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), in an interview with Fox News on April 21, disagreed with Xi’s participation at the summit.

“Even as they appear at the summit, they’re funding billions of dollars of fossil fuel-powered plants all over the world, including within China. Their emissions continue to climb,” Rubio said.

Chinese workers commute as smoke billows from a coal fired power plant in Shanxi, China, on Nov. 25, 2015. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

In addition to building dozens of new coal-fired power plants domestically, the regime has since 2013 committed $50 billion in state finance to building 26.8 gigawatts of overseas coal facilities across 152 countries through it’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI), according to a report by Refinitiv. BRI is a massive infrastructure investment project aimed at expanding the regime’s economic and political influence across the world.

Rubio added, “That’s why I always tell people—U.S. action alone is irrelevant when you have countries like China who continue to increase their emissions. And they’re not going to stop doing that.

The senator emphasized the need to judge the regime on their actions, not their words. He pointed to Xi’s pledge in 2015 to not militarize the South China Sea, only for the regime to proceed to escalate its efforts in building military outposts of artificial islands in the region.

“I think Xi Jinping is more than happy to see us adopt policies that would increase costs of growing our economy, but I don’t think you are going to see them do anything that is going to slow down their ability to grow,” Rubio said. “And you’re not going to see them do anything that will stop funding this sort of activity all over the world, where they now control these power plants, it gives them geopolitical leverage, too.”

Ranking member Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) questions witnesses during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 23, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Robert Atkinson, president of Washington-based think tank ITIF, said that cooperating with Beijing on climate would come at a cost for the United States.

“China exacts a price for everything. They’re not naive. They’re not global well-wishers,” Atkinson said at a virtual discussion on April 19.

Engagement with the regime on climate would “reduce critical U.S. leverage needed to pressure China to dismantle its predatory … mercantilist regime,” he said.

If the United States were to ask the regime to help combat climate change, Xi will use the opportunity to force the United States to soften its position of Beijing’s various abuses, according to Atkinson.

“Xi Jinping is not stupid, he’s not naive, he’s gonna say, ‘Yeah sure we’ll help you with climate. But you have to do these other things. You have to stop with the export control regime, and you have to stop criticizing us for intellectual property theft,’” he said.

Follow Cathy on Twitter: @CathyHe_ET

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