Election 2020: The GOP wants you to fear China and love big (American) oil and fracking

  • Published on July 21st, 2020

A month ago, Abby Smith at the Washington Examiner warned that Republicans were rolling out a new propaganda plank: attacking China on critical minerals – like lithium and cobalt – that are key components of battery and clean energy technologies. The fact that these are also essential ingredients to basically all advanced technology(phones, computers, etc) is generally overlooked and it’s all consistent with the spin that uses anti-Chinese sentiments to sell fossil fuels as a way to keep US energy supplies independent.

Election 2020: The GOP wants you to fear China and love big (American) oil and fracking
(Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash)

By Climate Denier Roundup

Since then the attacks have come thick and fast, with the first – an op-ed in the Examiner – coming just days after Smith’s story. Notably, this oped  came from Danielle Butcher of the American Conservation Coalition, one of those (supposedly) pro-climate conservative groups. Butcher implores us to hold China accountable for its pollution, which is fine, except that the United States has historically polluted far more than China, and continues to emit far more per capita, so the argument that the US has some sort of moral authority falls flat.

Despite the surface-level difference between ACC and the climate-denying Republican party, their messaging on this is essentially identical. A couple of weeks after Butcher’s op-ed, Trump’s Secretary of Energy had an op-ed in Koch’s RealClear about how the administration is planning “to win the critical minerals battle against China.”

West Virginia House Representative David McKinley’s Washington Examiner op-ed a few weeks later puts the finest point on it, suggesting that hydrogen power is the real answer to our alternative energy needs, and that “it is foolish to turn our back on fossil fuels.”

And then finally, not with a fine point but with his usual hamfisted grace, President Trump recently criticized the Paris Climate agreement as “allowing China to pollute the atmosphere with impunity,” calling it “yet one more gift from Biden to the Chinese Communist Party.”

Here’s where it gets really interesting though, because Biden’s actually closer to Republicans on the issue of scapegoating China than anyone may want to acknowledge, and as a recent Financial Times piece explored, targeting China seems to be a pretty bipartisan endeavor.

As an example, the climate plan Biden released earlier this year included some interesting points about China, including describing it as “far and away the largest emitter of carbon in the world.” Again, omitting the fact that historically, the USA is responsible for twice as much pollution to date as China.

While it may be a politically prudent whip up anti-Chinese sentiment, climate change doesn’t care about politics, it only cares about emissions. And if we want to reduce emissions as quickly as possible, to protect as much life as possible, that’s going to mean cooperating with China.

That said, there is no shortage of issues to criticize Chinese leadership on, from (real) constraints on free speech and the Hong Kong protests, to its decades of Tibetean oppression, to the ongoing genocide of over a million Uighur muslims.

So if someone has complaints about China, and they don’t start with the Communist Party’s flagrant abuses of human rights, be very skeptical about their claims.

No matter their political affiliation.

(Crossposted with DailyKos.)

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