A great many watermelons have enthused about China’s supposed commitment to net zero by 2050 although apparently the idea is that western nations cripple their economies and geopolitical capacities first and then we’ll talk. But after incoming American Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims was “genocide” the PRC’s foreign ministry blustered on Twitter that “China is willing to work with the US on climate change. But such cooperation cannot stand unaffected by the overall China-US relations”. So let us trash our own people or the planet gets it. Strange priorities you have there.
Perhaps it would seem silly to point out to Xi Jinping and his colleagues that if the planet catches fire they will have a hard time repressing people amid the flames. But everyone else ought to note that, perhaps without meaning to, the Chinese government has admitted that it regards itself as having a major interest in repression and very little in reducing GHG emissions. (As a glance at a map of world coal power plants confirms.)
The Red Chinese foreign ministry Twitter flame continued “It is impossible to ask for China’s support in global affairs while interfering in its domestic affairs and undermining its interests”. Which isn’t even good diplomacy; nations frequently find themselves agreeing on some things while disagreeing on others and so “linkage”, as understood by sophisticated practitioners like Nixon and Kissinger, is precisely a matter of trading concessions in one area for concessions based on the geopolitical equivalent of comparative advantage in an effort to improve the net position of both parties. But for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China to characterize action on climate change as “China’s support in global affairs” suggests that the Chinese regime isn’t doing it for themselves or out of conviction that the crisis is real; it’s offering a carrot to the West on climate in return for Western concessions on something that does interest the regime in Beijing. And you’d better count your fingers after shaking on that one. (Especially since communist-controlled firms are evidently buying up Britain’s power system in case a little help kneeling is ever needed.)
John Kerry, who is getting mostly positive reviews from us in this particular newsletter at least, gets one here too because he responded that “Obviously we have serious differences with China” from theft of intellectual property to increasingly irresponsible aggressive conduct in the South China Sea but “Those issues will never be traded for anything that has to do with climate. That’s not going to happen.” Which doesn’t begin to solve any of these problems but does at least suggest a determination to be firm. However he still has to tackle the big question: If China regards climate change as an American or western obsession for which the democracies should be willing to pay in hard geopolitical currency, what exactly is the real view of the Politburo about global warming?
The Los Angeles City Council is apparently about to declare its support for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty which one LA Times writer seems to think is a fine idea. But to implement such a thing requires either some leverage over the other parties or mutual recognition that, as with nuclear weapons, everybody could lose from failure to act. If neither is present in a rival superpower, well, it’s going to be very tough to get a deal and very risky to act unilaterally without one.