At the height of the 2019 Hong Kong protests, one participant offered a strong piece of advice to the then-leader of the free world. "Donald Trump, don't trust China," the protester said. "China is asshole."
Those are words President Joe Biden's climate czar, John Kerry, would do well to ponder as he prepares to board his fossil-fuel emitting jet to Beijing this weekend to resume in-person climate negotiations with his communist counterpart, Xie Zhenhua. If the trip yields commitments from China to "accelerate its phase-out of coal," Kerry said, it will be a success.
Low bar. China has long pledged to do as much, only to ramp up its coal consumption and carbon emissions. In 2014, one year after CCP head Xi Jinping became president, China unveiled a plan—to much fanfare from the American press—to cap its annual coal consumption at 4.2 billion tons by 2020. China's commitment to lower emissions, former president Barack Obama said at the time, "shows what's possible when we work together on an urgent global challenge." Today, the Chinese have blown past that number and burn more coal than the rest of the world combined.
Kerry has nonetheless argued that, in the case of the Chinese, words alone are proof of climate "progress." He has lauded the genocidal dictator for using the term "climate crisis" and for pledging to cut emissions as part of an "ecological strategy."
"I’d rather have those words than not," Kerry told lawmakers in 2021.
A wise man once said to "trust but verify." A year later, in 2022, Xi approved the equivalent of two new coal power plants per week.
That unfortunately is not the way the Biden administration conducts diplomacy. Kerry in March expressed regret that "other tensions" between China and the United States—you know, spy balloons, concentration camps, and the hacking of America’s commerce secretary—had "gotten mixed up" with climate cooperation.
It is revealing that Kerry and his allies in the Biden administration take the measure of a man by the extent to which he has adopted their own woke rhetoric. We can be sure that Xi understands perfectly who will come out ahead.