America and its allies must leverage trusted networks to counter China’s ‘greenwashing’ of human rights abuses
To understand how China’s technological authoritarianism threatens the world, consider solar energy. What is seen as a clean, modern and relatively high-tech alternative to fossil fuels has become yet another example of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) heavy-handed approach to bullying other countries and dominating an industry. Worse, many US investors are deliberately blind to Beijing’s monopolistic tactics and use of slave labor, prioritizing their “green” portfolios over US energy security and human rights. .
Here’s the good news: Economies of scale have enabled cost reductions that many experts believe will lead to solar power accounting for 60% of the world’s energy needs by 2050. This will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse effect and will greatly contribute to combating climate change.
But here’s the bad news: the inconvenient truth is that manufacturing solar cells is an energy-intensive and labor-intensive process. Large Chinese companies, many of which are listed on US stock exchanges, dominate the entire solar supply chain, controlling between 80 and 90 percent of nearly every step.
Since 2017, these companies have been strongly urged by the CCP to locate their facilities in China’s Xinjiang region, home not only to the world’s two largest coal-fired power plants, but also ground zero for the genocide of the Uyghurs by the Uyghur. CCP. A major element of this genocide is the widespread use of forced labor, in which almost every major Chinese solar company has been implicated.
Even though Chinese manufacturers have moved panel assembly and other subsequent stages of the supply chain across Southeast Asia to avoid US sanctions, China’s dominance of polysilicon production – the base of the global solar photovoltaic (PV) supply chain – and the centralization of polysilicon production in Xinjiang means that the problem of forced labor remains endemic in the production of photovoltaic panels. There is growing evidence that aluminum production in China is also heavily involved in forced labor – a hugely significant development given aluminum’s role in the manufacture of a wide range of products, including solar panels.
Over the past decade, China’s share of global polysilicon production has increased from 26% to 82%, while the United States’ share has fallen from 35% to 5%. This did not happen by accident. The Chinese regime has funneled state subsidies into solar production and engaged in regulatory arbitrage, undermining rivals with lax labor and environmental protections.
Many U.S. investors have been unwittingly complicit in funding China’s bid for market dominance as BlackRock and other institutional investors have championed the inclusion of Chinese solar companies in lucrative “ESG” portfolios – environmental, social and corporate governance, prioritizing easy-to-measure environmental measures. considerations to the detriment of human rights concerns.
Confront a bully
As we saw recently at the gas pump, energy security is national security. Unless drastic measures are taken, we will find ourselves at the mercy of China for our energy needs, just as Germany found itself at the mercy of Russia.
Beijing has a history of trying to claw its way to the top of industries by deploying the ‘power principle’ of duplicity, intimidation, retaliation, domestic oppression, coercive economic practices and serious violations. human rights. Fortunately, as the recent history of 5G wireless competition demonstrates, the CCP has a fatal weakness: no one trusts it.
To counter authoritarian predators, such as the CCP, our State Department team developed the “Trust Doctrine” rooted in democratic values, such as respect for the rule of law, human rights, labor practices and the health of our planet. The deployment of the “Trust Doctrine” has turned the CCP on its head by promoting exclusive collaboration with trustworthy entities to play by the rules.
In less than a year, the trust-based Clean Network Alliance of Democracies has successfully brought together 60 clean countries representing two-thirds of global GDP, 200 clean telecom operators and dozens of industry-leading clean companies that are committed to using only trusted 5G providers. . Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta observed that this trust-based alliance created a lasting and repeatable model for all areas of techno-economic competition.
A model of diplomatic and economic cooperation
The same trust-based model that has helped thwart China’s wireless hegemony may loosen its grip on global solar production. Just as like-minded countries and companies have come together to exclude malicious actors from advanced wireless networks, the “doctrine of trust” behind the Clean Network can be applied to our ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) standards. ).
For example, we should exclude companies domiciled in China from ESG-designated funds, urge the Securities and Exchange Commission to define a company’s domicile in China as a “significant risk”, and streamline our existing sanctions regimes to ensure that companies involved in human rights abuses or national security threats lose unfettered access to US capital markets.
The world’s democracies, led by the United States, have the moral legitimacy and economic power to stop a tyrant in his tracks. And now we have a model to do it. Alliances built around shared values – fundamental to what is now called “tech diplomacy” – are essential both to our personal economic interest and to the moral leadership we must muster for a freer and fairer world.
The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Epoch Times.