Biden’s China Policy Under Scrutiny as Kerry Is Set to Meet CCP Officials

By Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li is a reporter for The Epoch Times based in Europe.
and Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
journalist
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
July 16, 2023Updated: July 16, 2023

U.S. President Joe Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, arrived in Beijing on July 16 for three days of talks, becoming the third U.S. official to travel to China in less than two months.

While climate talks will dominate the discussions between Mr. Kerry and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials, it remains to be seen whether these talks will actually lead to an improvement of bilateral ties since there wasn’t any major breakthrough following the trips to China by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

Mr. Kerry told Congress that climate change is pressing, saying it’s important for the United States and China to find ways to work together in addressing it.

“China is the world’s second-largest economy, and as the world’s largest emitter, it’s critical to our being able to solve this problem,” he said at House Committee on Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on July 13.

Failing to engage with China “would be malpractice of the worst order, diplomatic and political,” according to Mr. Kerry.

He’s set to meet China’s special climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, and other senior Chinese officials. During these meetings, Mr. Kerry said he hoped they could make progress in persuading Beijing to “transition away from coal.”

China accounts for 53 percent of global coal consumption, according to a 2022 report by International Energy Agency.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping pledged to cut carbon emissions, but it won’t start until 2030.

“We aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. We call on all countries to pursue innovative, coordinated, green, and open development for all,” Mr. Xi said at the 75th session of the U.N. Assembly in New York.

Although they welcomed Mr. Xi’s pledge, observers doubt whether the country will really deliver on it.

“China has no intention of decarbonizing. Although it says it will reduce CO2 emissions, in reality, the Communists’ hold on power will slip without the constant economic growth that only fossil fuels can bring,” researchers said in a report by The Global Warming Policy Foundation, a U.K.-based nonprofit.

Currently, with China’s economy faltering, Chinese authorities continue to approve new coal-fired plants. In the first three months of 2023, local officials approved the construction of at least 20.45 gigawatts of power capacity, more than double the 8.63 gigawatts approved in the same period last year, accordion to recent research by Greenpeace.

In comparison, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has produced its toughest-ever rules for power plants, requiring most fossil fuel power facilities to cut carbon emissions by 90 percent before 2035.

Mr. Biden said the United States will slash its emissions by at least 50 percent compared with 2005 levels by the end of the decade. He promised to turn the United States into a “net zero” contributor to climate change before 2050.

Epoch Times Photo
Coal is loaded onto trucks for delivery to power generation plants after being unloaded from ships at the port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province, China, on July 12, 2023. (Stringer / AFP via Getty Images)

The division over the two countries’ emission-cutting pace came under the spotlight during the July 13 hearing at a House Committee on Foreign Affairs panel.

“What is the U.S. doing to force China to reduce its CO2 emissions?” Rep. Nathaniel Moran (R-Texas) asked.

Mr. Kerry rejected the word “force” but didn’t address the question directly.

“I’m going there … but I’m not sure that that presence alone is enough to force them,” he said.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, noted that the regime’s promises contradict reality.

“They’re not an honest broker when it comes to addressing emission reduction,” he said. “They fire a coal plant up pretty much every day if not week.”

The congressman also pointed to the Chinese regime’s claim that it was a developing country and that it shouldn’t be held to the same standards as developed economies in reducing carbon emissions.

“How in the world can the second-largest economy maintain to you and the rest of the world, with a straight face, that they are a developing nation, giving them preferential treatment?” Mr. McCaul asked.

Mr. Kerry said he didn’t disagree with Republicans who view this as unfair, noting that it’ll be revisited next year.

But as for whether he could “take away” China’s developing nation status during this trip, Mr. Kerry said, “Let me just be frank with you, that’s not going to happen in this visit. It’s just not a mechanism or a rationale.”

Republicans

Ahead of Mr. Kerry’s arrival, Republicans and China experts have questioned the Biden administration for its persistent efforts to engage China, while Democrats have come to Mr. Biden’s defense.

“I’m deeply concerned the administration continues to engage with the CCP with no real results or anything to show for it,” Mr. McCaul said during the July 13 hearing. “Countering China and their malign agenda should be the top priority of the State Department.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) described the climate negotiation as appeasement.

“John Kerry’s taxpayer-funded trip to China is another weak attempt to appease a dictatorship that commits pervasive human rights abuses and oppresses its own people,” Ms. Blackburn said in a July 13 statement.

“The Biden administration clearly cares more about advancing its radical Green New Deal agenda than protecting our national security interests. Rather than cooperating with our greatest adversary in the name of combating climate change, the U.S. should focus on hampering Beijing’s goal of achieving global domination.”

Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) voiced a similar criticism, saying Mr. Kerry’s visit is a continuation of “Biden’s Beijing appeasement tour.”

“We need to stand up to the CCP, not reward continued bad behavior,” Ms. Hinson wrote on Twitter on July 13.

Epoch Times Photo
A China Central Television news broadcast shows footage of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, on a giant screen outside a shopping mall in Beijing on June 19, 2023. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

A fourth U.S. official could be visiting China soon. According to a July 13 report from China’s state-run media outlet Xinhua, China’s commerce ministry was “in communication” with the U.S. side about a possible China visit by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

On July 14, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) expressed concerns about what Mr. Kerry “will give away” to the CCP, while pointing to the fact that Chinese hackers recently broke into U.S. government email accounts.

“I wouldn’t put it past John Kerry to bargain away America’s defense of Taiwan for more empty climate promises from the #CCP,” Mr. Sullivan wrote on Twitter. “I call on John Kerry and Secretary Raimondo to cancel their upcoming trips to Beijing.”

Democrats

Mr. Kerry received some praise from Democrats during the House subcommittee hearing on July 13.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, characterized climate change as a national security issue, and he was “immensely pleased” to see the Biden administration appoint Mr. Kerry as special climate envoy.

“I, along with most of the world, was relieved to see the United States back at the table, not only in climate negotiations but also in many other areas of diplomacy,” Mr. Meeks said at the hearing. “The United States is again leading the world. Even when it comes to curbing the emissions of the largest emitter, China, there are areas where we can and must cooperate.”

Epoch Times Photo
U.S. climate envoy John Kerry (L) gestures as he speaks next to China’s special climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua (R), during a session at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on May 24, 2022. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)

Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability, defended Mr. Kerry for his effort to address the challenges posed by climate change.

“It’s also wrong to say that engagement with the world, including with our adversaries … is in any way a show of weakness,” Mr. Crow said. “It is actually a show of strength to engage with the world, and do so from a position of confidence.”

On July 15, Matt Stoller, director of research at the American Economic Liberties Project, criticized the Biden administration’s choices of officials sent to China.

“Pretty clear the Biden administration has gone soft on China. Yellen, Raimondo, Blinken, and Kerry are pushing for more trade and deference, and the hawks have been sidelined,” Mr. Stoller wrote on Twitter.