Accusations on Granholm show US politicians are dodging efforts on climate change

US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm Photo: AFP

When anti-China moves and rhetoric have become a kind of “political correctness” in the US, even a soft tone on criticizing China may be lashed out at.

“You know, we’ve got a global problem [climate change] and China is a big contributor to that — we are, too,” US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said at a roundtable discussion in North Dakota on October 14. “And we don’t have much moral authority to say you should be doing this if we are not taking action and deploying the technology that we need to deploy.”

Compared to some extreme anti-China forces in the US, Granholm’s rhetoric tends to be rational, but it is still not accurate and objective. The primary and root cause of the climate change problem is that developed countries led by the US have consumed a mass of fossil fuels over the past century in their process of industrialization. It is the developed countries such as the US that should bear the fundamental responsibility, rather than China.

Granholm has realized that if the US does not take action, the country is not qualified to point a finger at others, including China. But her words cannot be seen as pro-China. Even so, she cannot shun accusations from some politicians in the US, especially from Republicans.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz on Tuesday responded on Twitter, “UNBELIEVABLE! The Biden administration is kowtowing to the Chinese Communist Party to a whole other level.” The official Twitter account of the Republican Party tweeted on the same day that “Biden and his administration refuse to hold China accountable.”

On the one hand, reducing carbon emissions requires action, including the sacrifice of certain vested interests, instead of just paying lip service. But it is obvious that many US politicians are not willing to make real efforts. Attacking China has become a means for them to divert global attention and confuse the public.

On the other hand, these stinging attacks toward Granholm have something to do with the US’ current political environment. The anti-China legacy of former US president Donald Trump remains in the US, in particular among Republicans. Some Republicans, as well as extreme anti-China forces, believe the Biden administration is soft on China. They take every chance to show their strong anti-China stance. Against this backdrop, although the Biden administration has shown several positive signs to ease its relations with China, it seems impossible for the US to strategically adjust its China policy.

Biden has repeatedly expressed his goal to tackle climate change since the election campaign. Now, his administration is trying to gain China’s support in this regard. Therefore, it is not surprising to see Republicans’ strong criticism.

The 2022 midterm election is approaching. Since taking office in January, Biden has not had an outstanding performance. The Republicans are reluctant to see the Biden administration achieve anything on climate change, as it may help the Democratic Party to win more votes in the coming election.

“The US’ fierce domestic political competition has become deeply related to whether the country can take substantial measures. Such competition and rampant ‘anti-China’ forces have a huge impact on Washington’s participation in global governance in terms of climate change,” Sun Chenghao, an adjunct fellow from the Center for International Security and Strategy in Tsinghua University, told the Global Times. If the US cannot realize its promise on climate change under the objection from the Republicans, it will be another blow to its international credibility.

“Climate change is an important part of global governance. If the Biden administration fails to fulfill its promise in this field, it will be hard for the US to restore its leadership in global governance,” Sun added.

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