Xi Jinping’s Climate Pledges Are Deeply Suspect.
[October 2021, By Anna and Lara Keller, Updated 2023]
As Cop26 looms in Glasgow at the end of October 2021, an essential question to ask is this. Do the climate pledges of Xi Jinping’s dictatorship really mean anything? Judging by the Covid 19 pandemic, the survival and ambitions of his ruling clique are enhanced rather than threatened by global chaos.
Xi Jinping has become the supreme leader of a neo-fascist superpower dictatorship not a democracy. How can we tell if Xi Jinping cares less? Yes China’s climate and coastal cities are particularly vulnerable to climate change, but the chaos would provide the perfect justification to Xi’s dictatorship and his neo-fascistic superpower obsession. If this seems a harsh assessment then consider this summary in “China of Xi Jinping: Towards Chinese Fascism?” by Jean-Philippe Béja. 
“The nature of the Chinese regime had not changed since 1949, but the need to renew the legitimacy of the Communist Party in the aftermath of Mao Zedong’s death led Deng Xiaoping to ease the pressure of the apparatus on society and the economy. After the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, Deng opened the country to the world market while maintaining the dictatorship. Rapid economic development and the exploitation of grey areas by NGOs had led to loosening of controls. Upon coming to power, Xi Jinping suppressed emerging civil society and strengthened Party leadership in all areas, eliminating spaces of autonomy and establishing the cult of personality. Party hegemony over society and government, cult of the leader, nationalism, China is in no way comparable to ‘democratures’ [quasi dictatorships with democratic elements]. Dictatorship has been imposed, and his system more and more recalls fascism.”
Coal is a critical power source in China that has contributed to its industrial success while creating a huge smog problem. The regime is working on plans that massively increase coal gasification [archive]  and the efficiency of mining, by creating huge intensive “coal bases” the size of cities, to both combat smog pollution and provide boundless energy.
In this context, how can these promises from Xi Jinping, be differentiated from the empty PR promises of a regime run by ruthless political opportunists? Appeasement of Xi Jinping’s regime will only lead to more dangerous confrontation later. Surely it is now time to hold all countries (including United States, China, Europe, Australia, India….) to minimum international standards, and restrict trading with countries (or impose carbon tarifs) who try to break the system?
Xi Jinping’s regime has given a grand promise of peak carbon output by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 but in March 2021 in the Five Year Plan (FYP) there was still no plan at all to actually implement this, or a “coal cap” target to aim at 
A very useful source in considering this question is Richard Smith’s 2020 book “China’s Engine of Environmental Collaspe” 
Richard Smith has an academic background, and has spent decades studying the nature and direction of the Chinese state.
There is too much in this book to summarize meaningfully. The general conclusion is that people outside China underestimate the sheer scale and intensity of the corrupt mania for cynically accumulating wealth and the fake ultra nationalism being used to camouflage it, that are driving the Chinese system. A few extracts from this book are presented to sketch the huge obstacles to genuine change, environmental or otherwise, within the current Chinese state:
“The real estate-construction industrial complex is easily the most spectacular example not only of overconstruction, waste, needless dislocation, and pointless pollution, but also of corruption, because the whole industry is founded on ‘primitive accumulation’—the theft of land from its occupants. In China, ceaseless primitive accumulation is the engine of urbanization and urban renewal. In what exiled economist and journalist He Qinglian termed ‘the marketization of power’, China’s leaders effectively combined the capitalist incentive of profit maximization with the bureaucratic-collectivist monopoly of property and power to open the way for officials high and low to grow fabulously rich by dispossessing tens of millions of peasants and urban residents alike, selling long-term leases for their properties to developers at huge profits, and securing for themselves a cut of the future profits of developments in the bargain.” [pp 107]
Corruption is a deeply serious problem in democratic countries, but how much worse can it be to control, in a state without freedom of expression? Even the fight against corruption is hijacked by the Xi Jinping regime as a means to persecute its opponents and rivals, rather than a means to challenge the scale of corruption itself. The Chinese system is being driven by the craving for limitless wealth enabled by unrestricted power. A juggernaut, a train without brakes running at full steam, unstoppable.
“Communist Party corruption is appalling. But worse, Chinese society has become deeply corrupted and demoralized as a result. Whereas in the 1980s China’s activist youth were idealistic, passionate protesters for democracy, today many of China’s millennial generation have lost all hope for change. Seduced by capitalism and consumerism, they have become cynical and indifferent toward politics, human rights, and the environment, and insouciant toward the CCP’s lies and repression. Others are just giving up and emigrating. ‘When the top is corrupt, this is how it will be all the way down,’ said Dai Qing. With the spectacle of China’s political leadership by ‘communist’ princeling-billionaires, corruption pervades the entire society, warps social morality, and encourages cynicism, amorality, and nihilism. As Dai Qing told an interviewer in 2010: ‘ The traditional Chinese ethic is gone from this society. These days, everyone is chasing money. Everyone wants a career as a public official because it’s the gateway to becoming rich. In today’s China, with belief in neither traditional values nor the rule of law, money means everything to almost everyone. ‘ ” [pp 145]
As Jean-Philippe Béja described above, Xi Jinping (a princeling-billionaire) came to power not to fight corruption, but to secure the elite against any backlash by Chinese society. He closed down the political spaces opened up as a byproduct of China, opening up to world markets. China has become increasingly oppressive again under Xi Jinping’s absolute rule.
Richard Smith describes how the elite of the CCP are destroying the fabric of China and are setting China on a path to emerge as the most important driver of planetary environmental collapse:
“But Xi doesn’t need Trump’s help holding China back. From the famines caused by Mao’s Great Leap Forward to the crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square, from the Sichuan school building collapses to the Xinjiang prison camps, from north China’s ‘airpocalyptic’ smog to Xi’s war on democracy in Hong Kong, the Communist Party has capably held China’s masses back for seven decades all by itself. The Communist Party’s nationalist obsession with overtaking the West and reclaiming the imagined ‘glory’ of China’s feudal era is not going to stop the looming ecological collapse. As this book has tried to show, the Party’s concern with maximizing growth at any cost and its lust for grandiose prestige projects, needless industries, and one-upping the West have turned China into the leading driver of planetary collapse. Xi can keep his pedal to the metal driving China and the world off the cliff to collapse, or he can slam on the brakes, shut down China’s engines of environmental destruction, and build that ecological civilization. He can’t do both.” [pp 195]
Based on the information presented in this book it seems highly unlikely Xi Jinping will be reining in the ecological destruction or the oppression of the neo-fascist regime he is creating.
This article is not an argument to do nothing. Rather it is an argument that the climate crisis is a global crisis of the type that has only previously been seen in world wars. The response must focus on defeating the principle problem of greenhouse gas emissions which are driving climate destruction, while also ensuring humanitarian basics are extended to all. This means an unflinching confrontation with governments and organizations who are on the wrong side, wherever they are found. To appease is to swap the hope of success for the certainty of failure.
To appease in particular the Xi Jinping regime in the hope of environmental cooperation is to be disastrously misguided. China will suffer severely from climate change, and it is in the county’s and people’s interests that the global effort to fight it is successful. The problem is that elites, especially those in dictatorships, do not represent the countries or peoples they control. In the same way parasites do not want to kill the host, but are indifferent and benefit from the host’s weakened state of sickness.
The climate promises of all governments including the Xi Jinping regime need to be verified, and tied to detailed openly available plans, so progress can be monitored. Issues of human welfare, rights and dignity are not competitors with the climate or the environment. Rather both are victims of exclusion. The unethical ruthless use of force can be used to provisionally hide the consequences of this exclusion. A regime that is allowed to ignore human rights is also enabled to use force to steal the resources its elites need from a degraded environment.
XiJinping’s only real interest in climate change, that is threatening the whole world, is as a tool to get the Climate and China hawks fighting each other in Western democracries, climate change is another bargaining chip, another geostrategic weapon, Xi Jinping is taking the climate hostage. Pledges are made, some impressive renewable projects built, but Co2 emmissions keep rising as a step rate.
China’s carbon dioxide emissions, still rising steeply:
Source = https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/annual-co2-emissions-per-country
Source = https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/co2-emissions-by-fuel-line?country=~CHN
This is the reality. An absolute dictator grabs power for self not others. To quote an early nineteenth century philosopher-poet William Hazzlit “The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves. The one is real; the other often but an empty dream.” from “Politcal Essays” (1819). Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream”, of China as the most powerful and also the most autocratic nation in the world is his driver, his only goal. Hazzlit could have written today that “love of the environment, love of the climate, is also the love of others.” Expect nothing from Xi and his power elite.
China will plan many and build some “renewable bases” of wind and solar power, but will not make the investment in expensive long term energy storage (or mostly redundant backup energy generation). China will use renewables to substitiute for fossil fuel, when the wind is blowing and the sun shining, and the renewables cost less than the fossil fuels (especially cheap coal) they substitute for; but otherwise the rising power needs of the Chinese Dream will continue to come from fossil fuels, tempered to a limited degree as the West gives in to the demands Xi Jinping makes in exchange for climate promises. This is what happens when democracies are asleep as dictatorships become fascist superpowers.
To illustarte the problem:
The levelized cost of primary energy sources in China have been analyzed by Woodrow Mackenzie. LCOE is a levelized measure that shows the cost of a new source of power over its lifetime per MW hour; it includes costs of construction, maintenance, fuel (if applicable), finance, and decommissioning. They estimate that in 2025 in China, Utility Scale Solar and Onshore Wind will match efficient USC Coal power stations (nearly 50% more efficient than traditional coal power stations) at $50 / MWhr.
This means if sunlight and wind supplied energy at a constant rate then there would be no cost savings (ignoring the costs of the effects of carbon emissions) from building more coal power stations. This is obviously not the case in nature, and so short term storage of renewable energy is required for them to replace more fossil fuel energy production. The cost of Utility Lithium Ion storage is expected to level out at around $150 per MWhr stored (using a levelized measure LCOS similar to LCOE).
Source = https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-86884-0_14
To ensure totally reliable energy supplies, due to long term slumps in solar and wind energy (ie a period of winter months when winds were light) then a backup source of energy would be needed, using fossil fuels and later stored hydrogen, pumped water etc. Using the estimate that fuel is about 50% of LCOE for coal power stations, then to back up the supply of each new MWhr of energy added to the power supply system, would require $25 per MWhr of emergency generation capacity.
So to completely replace fossil fuels for energy production – a requirement for net zero as industry still produces carbon dioxide in chemical processes such as cement making, as well as domestic and industrial transport – each MWhr added to the power generation system would cost very approximatley $50 (production) + $75 (half to short term storage) + $25 (backup energy source) = around $150 / MWhr. This compares with $50 / MWhr for current Chinese USC Coal power plant production. [See Is exponential growth of solar PV the obvious conclusion? 2019 by Brent Wanner for a similar view on this issue]
This means that a source of political will is needed for any country including China to achieve net zero by the around the middle of this century. Xi Jinping’s absolute dictatorship means that all political will comes from the dictatorship. Not the people, not the 2 million strong CCP. Xi Jinping controls but does not represent China or its interests. We know he cares about his China being the most powerful nation on earth, that he cares about anything else beyond this stolen granduer looks unlikely.
-  “China of Xi Jinping: Towards Chinese Fascism?” by Jean-Philippe Béja, from POUVOIRS (Number 169) 2019 (English Translation used).
-  “China’s Plan to Clean Up Air in Cities Will Doom the Climate, Scientists Say Coal-to-gas projects in rural areas could double carbon footprint of fuel burned in cities, spelling disaster for earth’s climate, warn scientists.” by William J. Kelly, “Climate News” 2014.
https://insideclimatenews.org/news/13022014/chinas-plan-clean-air-cities-will-doom-climate-scientists-say/ or [archive] ↩
-  “China has a grand carbon neutrality target but where is the plan? China’s new long-term targets, to reach peak emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, are yet to be matched with a consistent short-term action plan.” by Alicia Garcia-Herrero & Simone Tagliapietra, Bruegal EU Economic Blog, 2021.
-  “China’s Engine of Environmental Collapse. Authoritarianism, capitalism and destruction: why China is leading the world to ecocide.” by Richard Smith, Pluto Books, 2020.
Tags: China, climate change, Dictatorship, global warming, net zero, Xi Jinping.