Senior Chinese officials warned John Kerry that U.S. support for human rights threatens climate change cooperation, eliciting a pledge from President Joe Biden’s climate point-man to explain their perspective to officials in Washington.
“I will certainly pass on … the full nature of the message that I received from Chinese leaders,” former Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now Biden’s special envoy for climate change, told reporters following two days of meetings with top Chinese diplomats. “On the one hand, we’re saying to them, ‘You have to do more to help deal with the climate.’ And on the other hand, their solar panels are being sanctioned, which makes it harder for them to sell them.”
Kerry pledged to deliver that message to Biden, who tapped him as the lead U.S. diplomat for international climate policy, following two days of meetings with top Chinese officials. His interlocutors used the conversations as an opportunity to renew their demand that Biden stop condemning the Chinese Communist regime’s abuse of human rights and aggressive foreign policy before reportedly dismissing his request for cooperation.
“China already has its own plans and road map for achieving its climate goals,” the South China Morning Post quoted a source familiar with the conversations as saying.
Biden’s administration slapped sanctions on China’s solar panel industry in June, including a measure that barred Americans from purchasing products made by Hoshine Silicon Industry Co., in addition to other restrictions on the export of U.S. goods to three other Chinese companies. These sanctions were organized around the companies alleged use of enslaved Uyghur Muslim labor, following bipartisan congressional pressure to blacklist the companies.
“They see that as a contradiction,” Kerry he told the Washington Post.
Global solar panel chains run through Xinjiang, the traditional homeland of the Uyghur Muslims, many of whom have been forced into mass detention camps as part of a “reeducation” policy that Chinese officials characterize as a counterterrorism program.
“The United States believes that state-sponsored forced labor in Xinjiang is both an affront to human dignity and an example of the PRC’s unfair economic practices,” Biden’s team said in June. “The systematic abuses go beyond forced labor to include sexual violence and large-scale forced detentions, and the PRC continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi renewed the demand for U.S. government officials to halt such criticism.
“The U.S. side wants the climate change cooperation to be an ‘oasis’ of China-U.S. relations,” he told Kerry, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry summary. “However, if the oasis is all surrounded by deserts, then sooner or later, the ‘oasis’ will be desertified. China-U.S. cooperation on climate change cannot be divorced from the overall situation of China-U.S. relations.”
Wang elaborated on that complaint, citing “two lists” that Chinese officials drafted for Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, including the “List of U.S. Wrongdoings that Must Stop" and “three bottom lines” that China has drawn. Those “bottom lines” include a demand that the United States stop condemning Beijing’s policies toward the Uyghur Muslims, which U.S. officials have identified as genocide but that Chinese Communist leaders insist is a matter of sovereignty and internal affairs.
“The ball now is in the U.S. court,” Wang said.
Kerry put a brave face on the friction. “We made some progress. That’s the bottom line,” he said told the Washington Post. “In diplomacy, you don’t always get everything you want in one fell swoop.”
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Original Author: Joel Gehrke