The first round of a revamped U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue was held in Washington last week. President Obama added the State Department as co-chair with the Treasury for the biannual meetings, which started in 2006.
The broadened framework is to provide "distinct strategic and economic tracks," according to the administration. Unfortunately, the strategic implications of China's growing diplomatic influence and military capabilities were ignored. Instead, the president used the event to advance his most naive foreign policy plank -- the belief that the two powers share a common view about climate change.
In his opening speech to the dialogue, Mr. Obama called for cooperation in planning "a clean, secure and prosperous energy future." Noting that the United States and China are "the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world," he said, "Let's be frank: Neither of us profits from a growing dependence on foreign oil, nor can we spare our people from the ravages of climate change unless we cooperate."
The president's attempt to link Beijing's fears about the security of oil shipments with global warming will not work. The first concern is about assured access to energy sources, the second is about restricting energy uses. The Chinese favor the first but will not accept the second.
The president would know this if he had paid attention to what Chinese officials have been saying at international meetings about how to address the supposed "global warming" crisis. One of the lead Chinese participants at the conference was State Councilor Dai Bingguo, serving as special representative of President Hu Jintao. Mr. Dai served in this same capacity at the recent Group of Eight summit in L'Aquila, Italy, of eight leading industrial nations. At a side meeting of the O-5 (China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa), he demanded that the international community "respect the right of developing countries to independent economic development, take into full account the specific national conditions of developing countries, and ensure that developing countries enjoy necessary room for development policies."
The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will meet in December in Copenhagen to draft a post-Kyoto Protocol treaty. The "roadmap" to this treaty was set in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007. It set up a double standard between the developed and developing countries. The developed countries are to accept mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, while the developing countries are to be allowed to grow without any emission caps. The United States and the European Union have been trying to persuade the developing countries to accept at least some mandatory reduction targets.
At this year's G-8 summit, they made a vain attempt to appease the developing nations. The G-8 pledged to cut their emissions by 80 percent to reach the 50 percent global reduction goal set at the 2008 G-8 meeting. This means the underdeveloped countries could make cuts well below the average. Yet the developing nations rejected any limits on their growth. The Kyoto Protocol did not require them to cut back, and they do not want the Copenhagen agreement to impose any limits either, except on the "rich" developed countries.
During the June UNFCCC meeting in Bonn, Chinese officials even said that their country would be increasing its carbon emissions in future years as it continued to expand production.
In direct reference to the UNFCCC and the Copenhagen conference, Mr. Dai at the O-5 urged adherence "to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities" as set out in the Bali Roadmap. He demanded that the developed countries make explicit commitments for emission reductions while "providing developing countries with measurable, reportable and verifiable support in technology, funding and capacity building." This is nothing less than an explicit program for an international transfer of wealth. The developing countries do not accept the green thesis, but they will exploit it to shift the balance of power in their favor.
The main outcome of the recent conference was the signing of a memo to promote a "discussion and exchange of views" for addressing climate change with "practical solutions" for the "transition to low-carbon economies." The memo endorses "successful international negotiations on climate change" without stipulating the desired outcome. It calls for "joint research, development, deployment and transfer, as mutually agreed, of climate-friendly technologies" and "pragmatic cooperation on climate change between cities, universities, provinces and states of the two countries."
On the basis of this empty rhetoric, Mr. Obama thinks he has formed a partnership with China that will overshadow the traditional geopolitical conflicts that divide the two nations. Beijing is quite willing to let him think so while pursuing its own interests unimpeded.