The Big Ideas

‘Beijing Won’t Let America “Compartmentalize” Climate Change'

The Wall Street Journal

John Bolton | former National Security Advisor
‘Beijing Won’t Let America “Compartmentalize” Climate Change'
‘Beijing Won’t Let America “Compartmentalize” Climate Change'
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February 3, 2021
BIG IDEA | ‘‘You want China to take action on climate change?" asks Xi Jinping. "Let’s talk about what you’re going to give to get it.’’

‘Does the Biden administration have the slightest idea how to reconcile its global environmental goals with its China strategy?’

  • ‘The early signs aren’t encouraging.’

‘Climate change is paramount to Mr. Biden.’

  • ‘In Beijing’s eyes, this makes Washington the demandeur—in diplomatic parlance, the one asking for something. It is never a preferred position in negotiations.’
  • ‘You want China to take action on climate change? asks Xi Jinping.’
  • ‘Let’s talk about what you’re going to give to get it.’

‘Climate diplomacy czar John Kerry knows he has a problem.’

  • ‘Asked about handling China, given the many contentious disagreements, Mr. Kerry answered that “those issues will never be traded for anything” relating to climate change, which “is a critical stand-alone issue” that it is “urgent that we find a way to compartmentalize, to move forward.” ’
  • ‘He didn’t explain how he’d compartmentalize.’

‘Unfortunately for Mr. Biden, China has a vote, too. Beijing reacted quickly, criticizing Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s affirmation that oppressing the Uighurs constitutes genocide.’

  • ‘A Chinese government account tweeted: “China is willing to work with the US on climate change. But such cooperation cannot stand unaffected by the overall China-US relations. It is impossible to ask for China’s support in global affairs while interfering in its domestic affairs and undermining its interests.” In response, Mr. Blinken repeated Mr. Kerry’s compartmentalization mantra.’

‘Beijing will obfuscate the stakes and trade-offs of its demands.’

  • ‘Mr. Xi won’t propose substantially reducing carbon emissions in exchange for Mr. Biden recognizing the mainland’s sovereignty over Taiwan.’
  • ‘But Chinese planners are certainly contemplating how to slice and dice their policy choices to achieve precisely that and other objectionable goals more subtly.’
  • ‘Beijing’s negotiators could, say, be stubborn about climate-change issues with Mr. Kerry until Uighur sanctions are scaled down—then stay stubborn until the U.S. acknowledges Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea.’

My Take

This is just one of several factors. Yes, China wants fintech companies to know who is boss. But it also wants to reduce risk in the financial system. And don't discount that China might be caught up in the global trend of better regulating social media and fintech companies.