Climate Home News is over the moon about China’s latest climate pledge. “Yes, it’s official: the country responsible for more than a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions is aiming for net zero by 2060. This is huge. Massive…. it rekindles hope.” Meanwhile the National Post reports that “the Canadian embassy in Beijing is having trouble with staffing because the air quality is so bad” that you can barely see two blocks on a winter day because of all the coal they’re burning. Now superficially one’s view of climate change ought to be independent of one’s view of Karl Marx. But strangely, credulity about the latter and the former seem to travel together. Whereas the Global Warming Policy Forum drew attention to the strange juxtaposition of Chinese belligerence over Taiwan with its empty hypnotic gestures on climate by saying by saying “As China Threatens War Over Taiwan, It Plays the ‘Climate’ Card”. And indeed there’s little question in our minds that part of China’s aggressive geopolitical strategy is to induce western governments to cripple their economies with real measures against reliable energy while they utter empty words.
Of course all the right-thinking people don’t see the words as empty. As the Post story added, “Previously, China has been praised by Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna for its climate change program”, while a new video hailing Xi’s statement suggests that former Trudeau eminence gris Gerald Butts shares Trudeau’s naïve enthusiasm about China’s “basic dictatorship… allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime and say, ‘We need to go green…’” And the BBC is also thrilled with what Paul Homewood called “China’s Meaningless ‘Promise’”, saying “The announcement is being seen as a significant step in the fight against climate change.”
It is strange how easily some swallow this camel. Eric Reguly, European Bureau Chief for the Globe & Mail, just wrote in its Report on Business that “Even China, the world’s top emitter of planet-warming greenhouse gases, sees the end of the fossil fuel era. This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the UN General Assembly that his country intends to be carbon neutral by 2060.” And he went on to wax lyrical about how “China already has a formidable lead in clean energy, even though it still insists on building new fleets of coal-burning electricity plants” and praised China’s production of solar, lithium-ion batteries, wind turbines and mining and refining of things like cobalt, as though these industries were not environmental as well as human-rights horror stories. Instead he sniffed that “Canada needs a new breed of corporate champions to replace the ones it lost or the ones, like oil, that face decline. Clean energy is the obvious – and morally safe – place to start.” And as Eric Worrall notes, Foreign Policy bought it too, expressing obvious doubts only to sweep them aside and claim that “In a little-noticed speech this week, China permanently changed the global fight against climate change.”
Little-noticed? If only. And it’s especially strange that state-run and state-funded media outlets in democratic societies, like the BBC, are among the organizations most credulous about tyrannies. Thus the British model for Canada’s CBC gushes: “China will aim to hit peak emissions before 2030 and for carbon neutrality by 2060, President Xi Jinping has announced.” It’s not as though it doesn’t know the facts any more than Foreign Policy doesn’t; that BBC story promptly admits that “China is the world’s biggest source of carbon dioxide, responsible for around 28% of global emissions…. Emissions from China continued to rise in 2018 and 2019 even as much of the world began to shift away from fossil fuels. While the Covid-19 crisis this spring saw the country’s emissions plunge by 25%, by June they had bounced back again as coal-fired plants, cement and other heavy industries went back to work.” But somehow the will to feel proletarian or some such thing triumphs over mere facts.
By the same token Climate Home News, which was so thrilled by Xi Jinping’s announcement at the UN that even though they knew in advance “yet somehow it was still a surprise”, admits that China alone emits “more than a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions” and that “Climate Action Tracker reckons it [the new pledge] slices 0.2-0.3C off global warming projections this century” which is “Not enough to meet the Paris Agreement temperature targets” and that “Forty years is a long time” and “It would be easy to dismiss this as Communist propaganda.”
So do they? Heck no. “Beijing tends to be conservative with climate promises and met its 2020 emissions target three years early.” You go Communist China.
For China, the climate card is a get-out-of-jail-free card on everything else. As Walter Russell Mead warns in the Wall St. Journal, if Joe Biden wins the 2020 election “For Chinese officials, the goal would be to get the Biden administration to negotiate with itself—the climate hawks persuading the incoming president to squelch the China hawks to save the planet. Beijing is the key to climate change, climate warriors will say, and America can’t persuade China to help cool the Earth by harassing it on trade, imposing sanctions against its companies, arming Taiwan, and encouraging its neighbors to form alliances against Beijing. This is an approach China can work with. Beijing wants to fight climate change, its diplomats will whisper to U.S. climate hawks, but Chinese hard-liners need to be convinced. Help us to help you: If America demonstrates a spirit of compromise and cooperation on issues important to the hard-liners, well, who can say? We might even give up our coal plants. Someday.”
In short, they will play the US for suckers. With lots of help from inside. As Rupert Darwall put it starkly on Real Clear Energy, “The winner of the election has two choices—take China at its word and pursue the illusion of a cooperative China leading the fight against climate change, or stand firm against Chinese expansionism. He cannot do both.”
Eric Worrall rightly asks “What is wrong with the world? Xi Jinping is operating one of the most repressive Chinese regimes since Mao Zedong, with almost daily reports of persecution of foreign journalists, human rights outrages in Hong Kong, threatening Taiwan and India with war, and brutal concentration camps in Xinjiang and perhaps also Tibet, Inner Mongolia, and who knows where else. Xi openly reveres the murderous Mao regime as an inspiration to his ‘reformation’ plans. Yet one whiff of greater compliance with the Paris Agreement, not even actions, just words, and an influential media group like Foreign Policy leads with the headline that China is trying to save the world.”
For those in the BBC, Climate Home News or the Canadian cabinet, we therefore helpfully underline that in the phrase “useful idiots” the key word is “idiots”.