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Dragon Us Down, the Green Way By: William R. Hawkins
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 01, 2009


When the House of Representatives passed the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (HR 2454) by a narrow 219-212 margin in the last Friday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the China’s Communist government both celebrated for the same reason: the vote was a sign of their growing power. The environmentalist bill aims to reduce alleged global warming pollution by 17 percent in 2020 from its 2005 level. All sides of the debate agree on one thing: the cost of this effort will be enormous. The Congressional Budget Office says the new carbon “cap and trade” system established under the bill will rake in $846 billion in taxes over the next decade. The Heritage Foundation estimates that increased revenues will amount to $5.7 trillion by 2035, adjusting for inflation. Heritage and Obama agree that electricity prices will “skyrocket” by 90 percent and gasoline prices by 74 percent, beyond normal price fluctuations. The negative impact on U.S. economic growth and living standards will be tremendous. And the Chinese welcome the news as another step toward eroding America’s days as the world’s lone superpower. Beijing has played a cynical game of supporting strict climate change standards for its enemies while refusing to impose any on its own economic growth.

Nancy Pelosi, who has had a stellar record on human rights issues since her election to Congress two decades ago, has been one of the chief enablers of this policy. On June 4, back on U.S. soil, Pelosi led other members of Congress and Chinese human rights activists in commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, among them Harry Wu, perhaps the best known Chinese dissident in exile, whom she thanked  “for leading the effort to display the Tiananmen Photo Exhibition here in the Rayburn Building.” But when she was in China’s corridors of power a few days earlier, her tone had been more about cooperation with Beijing than confrontation, reflecting more the posture of President Barack Obama than her own long record as a critic of the Communist dictatorship. Madam Speaker spoke briefly about human rights and delivered a letter calling for release of certain prisoners of conscience to Chinese officials. But she conceded her “focus was on climate change and what we can do between our two countries to help reach some agreement that will help serve us all well in a multilateral decision that will be made at Copenhagen” – the UN conference scheduled to meet at Copenhagen in December to draft the treaty that will replace the Kyoto Protocol and set targets for reducing carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases. In an attempt to square the circle, Pelosi claimed dubiously, “protecting the environment is a human rights issue.”

Traveling with Pelosi to China was Rep. Edward Markey, D-MA, a prime author of the cap-and-trade bill. At the June 2 press conference heralding the return of the delegation, Rep, Markey said “The Speaker did a masterful job of explaining to the leaders of the Chinese government that environmental justice requires the United States and China to take the lead in reducing greenhouse gases.” He then patted himself on the back, nothing Chinese leaders, including the president, “were each aware” of “the Waxman-Markey legislation, under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi. And they were discussing climate change and energy issues with us in that context that there was now significant movement in the United States Congress on these issues.”

This was but one of a string of environmentalist delegations the Obama administration has sent to China, starting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in February and running to Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern last week. Stern’s post is a new one created within the State Department to serve as the administration’s chief climate policy advisor and negotiator. Stern had worked on the staff of Sen. Pat Leahy, D-VT, and for the Center for American Progress. When Secretary Clinton made the announcement of Stern’s appointment in January, she spoke of “the complex, urgent, and global threat of climate change.” Last week, Stern stated the Chinese “need to take significant national actions that they commit to internationally, that they quantify, and that are ambitious.” President Obama hoped his Chinese charm offensive would unite Washington and Beijing in a fight against global climate change.

He has enjoyed mixed success: China has embraced global climate change legislation – for the rest of the world. At home, it has made clear its economic gain – and the military might its growing economy funds – take primacy.

This was on display at the UN climate conference held from June 1-12 in Bonn, Germany. When representatives of Japan announced the nation’s goal of reducing emissions by 15 percent by 2020 from the 2005 level, China immediately attacked the proposal as insufficient. At the June 11 Foreign Ministry press conference, spokesman Qin Gang said Tokyo’s plan “clearly falls short of the urgency of tackling climate change and the common aspiration of the international community.” He then restated Beijing’s position:

 “For a successful Copenhagen Conference [the following UN climate conference], we uphold that countries should adhere to the framework of...the Kyoto Protocol, strictly follow the authorization of the Bali Roadmap and stick to the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities.’ Developed countries should take the lead in emissions reduction and set their targets in the second commitment period at the Copenhagen Conference, that is, a 40 percent reduction by 2020 from the 1990 level. Developed countries should also honor their commitment of providing capital and technological transfer as well as support to the capacity building of developing countries.”

 At the same conference, the Chinese delegation said its country would be increasing its greenhouse emissions as it continued to develop its economy, and would not sign on to any plan for mandatory cuts. In a time of rising energy costs, Beijing does want to explore alternative sources, but the motive is economic rather than environmental. Beijing would also like to reduce urban pollution for health reasons, but not at the cost of growth. In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said it was impossible for China, which depends heavily on coal, to accept mandatory emission reduction targets. But he said developing countries could help contain carbon emissions as long as the wealthy industrial countries give them the needed technology and money. In China’s view, the developed countries of America, Europe and Japan have to be the ones to make all the sacrifices.

Chinese officials gave this same message to Special Envoy Stern on his visit.

Some have pondered how to enforce global climate sanctions against Beijing. During her June 2 press conference, Speaker Pelosi and Rep. Markey were asked how to compel China to adopt more stringent emissions standards. Markey noted, “The Ways and Means Committee now will have the ability to construct a standby tariff,” adding ominously this was “not to be imposed until years from now.” Specifically, no repercussions would be enacted until the year 2025. This is the position, not only of Markey and Pelosi, but of the Obama administration.    

This is a most ignoble state of affairs for Speak Nancy Pelosi, who earned a sterling record on Chinese human rights, better than many Republicans.

Rep. Pelosi was in her second term when the Beijing regime ordered troops to assault pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, killing thousands. She seized the issue as a centerpiece of her agenda. The biography posted on her official website states, “She has fought to improve China's human rights record, attempting to tie trade to increased human rights standards. She has also been a leader on efforts to free the people of Tibet.”

In 1991, Pelosi led reporters and others on an unauthorized visit to Tiananmen Square where she unfurled a banner dedicated, “To those who died for democracy in China.” Her group was immediately surrounded by security forces. The Chinese Foreign Ministry denounced the incident as a “premeditated farce,” and Pelosi’s host, the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, called it a “deliberate anti-China incident.” Six years later, when Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited Washington, Pelosi led a demonstration across the street from his Blair House reception.

She has clashed with both Republican and Democratic presidents over China policy. In 1991, Pelosi sponsored a bill to give Chinese students the right to remain in the United States rather than risk returning home. President George H. W. Bush vetoed it. The House overrode the veto, but the Senate upheld it. Under public pressure, the senior Bush issued an executive order to protect the students.

The following year, Pelosi was a leader in tying “overall significant progress” in human rights, trade practices, and weapons proliferation to the annual presidential grant of Most Favored Nation trade status to China. President Bush vetoed the legislation, believing that doing business in China was a key part of an “engagement” policy meant to improve relations. Pelosi opposed MFN for China on the grounds that economic progress without political reform would only strengthen the dictatorship. The transfer of technology and capital has given the regime more resources to support is ambitions.

During the 1990s when I worked for Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-CA, we often found common ground with Rep. Pelosi on China policy, even though our two offices were generally on extreme opposite ends of the political spectrum on every other issue. Indeed, China brought Pelosi into alignment with some of the most conservative Republican members, who were themselves considered mavericks because they defied the business lobby that was rushing to invest with Beijing. Carolyn Bartholomew held top staff positions with Pelosi during those years, and is now the chairwoman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission where some of Washington’s best work on China is being done.

Rep. Pelosi openly criticized President Bill Clinton for visiting Tiananmen Square during a 1998 trip to China to advance trade relations, seeing it as a gesture of appeasement rather than a protest. “What do they expect me to say?” Pelosi asked. “That it's not OK for a Republican president to coddle dictators, but it's OK for a Democrat?”

Is the Congresswoman who opposed President Clinton now willing to oppose new Democratic President Barack Obama on China?

Speaker Pelosi knows from years of study and experience the aggressive and brutal nature of the Beijing regime. And Chinese statements have only served to confirm its intent to exploit the Western mania about climate change to:
  1. cripple Beijing’s rivals, in particular the United States, Japan, and Europe;
  2. push for the transfer of capital and technology under the guise of Green cooperation; and
  3. expand existing competitive trade advantages as a haven for high emission industrial production.
The ultimate aim of Chinese policy is to fundamentally change the global balance of power in its favor.

Rather than parrot the naïve White House line about a partnership with China, Pelosi and her colleagues need to set the administration straight. They should argue vigorously for a change in policy to one that will support the strong American economic growth needed to raise living standards here and keep the United States the preeminent power in world affairs. China’s unfettered rise is not just a danger to the environment, it is a threat to America’s prosperity and security.

William Hawkins is a consultant on international economics and national security issues.


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