As the death toll of the Hawaiian fires climbs over 110, China sees the tragedy as a great opportunity to take cheap shots at the image of the United States abroad. China is using the developing events as a platform to wage a sophisticated propaganda campaign, claiming that the fires are a result of the US’ inaction on climate change, that the devastation shows that the US prioritizes conflict with China over the care of American citizens, that the US is incompetent and callous, and that root causes of the tragedy include racial and colonialist oppression.
CCP Claim: Fires Caused by US’ Failure to Address Climate Change
China frames the Hawaii fires as a result of the US not addressing climate change. According to Global Times, “[t]his kind of disaster is closely related to climate change but the Biden administration shows limited sincerity in restoring international cooperation to handle climate change issues.” Another Global Times editorial argued that the “vast majority” of the US “is ill-prepared for the disastrous effects of climate change,” and that “it is clear that the US cares little about the climate” given that Biden’s budget plan for fiscal year 2023 called for $45 billion for climate initiatives but $1.77 billion for the Department of Defense. Meanwhile, 20 people died in floods in Beijing and a landslide in northern China killed 24 this month, but I could not find similar criticism in the Chinese media linking these tragedies to the failure of the Chinese government addressing climate change.
CCP Claim: US Prioritizes “Containing” and “Competing” with China Over Saving Its Own People
China also claims that the US is prioritizing conflict with China over caring for US citizens. A Global Timeseditorial noted that the US’ “sluggish and indifferent response to its domestic catastrophic incidents sharply contrasts with its fervent resource mobilization in ‘competition’ with other nations,” and contrasts the US’ “over 800” oversees military bases and far-reaching Indo-Pacific command with its inability to address “domestic disasters.” A China Daily article advised President Biden to take the Camp David summit with South Korea as an opportunity to “explain why his administration can ignore the cries of the US people and focus only on containing other countries’ development.”
CCP Claim: US is Incompetent and Callous
China also argues that the US is being incompetent and unfeeling towards the victims. According to China Daily, the US government’s response was “heartlessly slow” while “people’s fury is smoldering in the ashes.” According to Global Times, citing “analysts” and “experts,” the wildfires “expose the incompetence of the US government” and ”the response of the US government made the US look ‘unlike a developed country.’” The American people, too, are callous: the same article makes the hyperbolic and unsubstantiated claim that “people from other states do not seem to care much what is happening in Hawaii.”
And just as a broken clock is right twice a day, the CCP media uses President Biden as a perfect example of incompetence and callousness. One opinion piece in China Daily stated that:
While the Hawaiians were struggling, US President Joe Biden was on vacation, riding his bike on a beach. What made the US people even angrier was that when asked about the rising death toll from the wildfires, Biden, fresh from sunbathing on the beach, responded nonchalantly: No comment.
Global Times also reported on the President’s “no comment” comment, and the subsequent backlash from it in the United States. The article specifically cited former Hawaii state representative Mark Kaniela Ing, a Democrat who now serves as national director of the Green New Deal Network, as calling the President’s remarks “shocking” and “out of character.” Another China Daily article stated that “[t]he response has drawn widespread criticism, with both Biden fans and critics admitting the answer was ‘extremely poor.’” That article also stated that the Hawaii fires could be “Biden’s ‘Katrina crisis’ moment.”
CCP Claim: Hawaii Fires a Result of Class and Racial Tensions
China uses class and race warfare to explain the root causes of the fires. A Xinhua editorial, citing a native Hawaiian activist, stated that “colonial greed” was a “root of the tragedy” by “drastically changing the ecosystem on the island.” Another contributing factor to the wildfire was “[m]issionary families [who] took over [Hawaii’s] economy and government…,” according to this activist as cited by Xinhua. Xinhua cites another Hawaiian by claiming that “[t]he fires of today are in part due…a history of colonialism in our islands, and the loss of our right to steward our ‘aina and wai’ (land and water).”
Perhaps to detract from bad news cycles of its own, which include recent belligerence towards the Philippinesin the South China Sea, Japan’s growing wariness to China, this week’s US-South Korea-Japan summit at Camp David, and the recent visit of Taiwan’s VP to the United States, China chooses to continue its old propaganda against the United States. But this time, China’s propaganda rings particularly hollow, as it is at the expense of those that have tragically died. Perhaps this will be yet another teachable moment to the US and its allies about the bad faith intentions of China.
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Biden to lift sanctions on China in exchange for third promise to combat fentanyl
Reportedly President Joe Biden is making deals with Chinese President Xi Jinping to help improve anti-drug trafficking measures. China is one of the top fentanyl producers and distributors, culminating in a pandemic of fentanyl overdoses and deaths in the United States.
The Biden administration will be lifting sanctions on a Chinese government ministry, in exchange for bolstering anti-drug trafficking measures, Bloomberg reported. “We’re hoping to see some progress on that issue this coming week,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Monday, according to the New York Post. “That could then open the door to further cooperation on other issues where we aren’t just managing things, but we’re actually delivering tangible results.”
The Daily Caller News Foundation noted that should a deal materialize, it will be at least the third time that China has promised to get tough on fentanyl. In 2016, China agreed to increase counter-narcotics operations, and Xi again agreed to launch a crackdown in 2018. Nonetheless, China and Mexico are “the primary source countries for fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked directly into the United States,” according to a 2020 DEA intelligence report.
“China remains the primary source of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked through international mail and express consignment operations environment, as well as the main source for all fentanyl-related substances trafficked into the United States.”
President Joe Biden and Xi are meeting for the first time in over a year during this week’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco. Sources familiar with the situation told Bloomberg that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will crack down on Chinese companies manufacturing chemical precursors for fentanyl in exchange for the U.S. lifting sanctions on the Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science, which the Commerce Department added to the Entity List in 2020 for “engaging in human rights violations and abuses” in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
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