Beijing fires back at US over environment, South China Sea
US-China friction flared again on Monday, with Beijing firing back at accusations by Washington that it is a leading cause of global environmental damage and has reneged on its promise not to militarise the South China Sea.
A document issued last week by the State Department cited China’s record on issues from greenhouse gas emissions to air and water and soil pollution, illegal logging, and wildlife trafficking.
“While the Chinese people have suffered the worst environmental impacts of its actions, Beijing also threatens the global economy and global health by unsustainably exploiting natural resources and exporting its wilful disregard for the environment,” the document said.
Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus followed that with a statement on Sunday, saying that China has “pursued a reckless and provocative militarisation” of disputed outposts in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands, adding that China’s ruling Communist Party “does not honour its words or commitments”.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin responded on Monday by asking why the United States was withdrawing from the Paris agreement on climate change, calling the US the “biggest destroyer of international environmental cooperation”.
Wang also said that US military actions have made it “the biggest threat to the peace and stability of the South China Sea”.
The trading of accusations comes amid disputes over trade, technology, Hong Kong and Taiwan, spying accusations against Chinese diplomats, and Beijing’s assertions of territorial claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere that have driven the bilateral relationship to its lowest point in decades.
The State Department’s attack on China’s environmental record follows China’s announcement to the United Nations General Assembly last week that it aims to have carbon dioxide emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, a pledge that won applause from environmentalists.
The State Department cited China as “the largest emitter of greenhouse gases; the largest source of marine debris; the worst perpetrators of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; and the world’s largest consumer of trafficked wildlife and timber products.’
It singled out leader Xi Jinping’s signature ‘Belt and Road’ global infrastructure building initiative as lacking “clear environmental guidelines, safety standards, and worker protections”, and said China is saddling host countries with environmental burdens and leading them away from sustainable development.