In a move stirring significant controversy, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has deepened the state’s climate change cooperation with organizations linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) despite warnings from U.S. intelligence agencies about potential risks to national security.
After engaging in climate talks in China, Newsom expedited the cleanup of San Francisco before a summit this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping. This action has drawn criticism, viewed by some as prioritizing international optics over local Californian interests.
The core of this collaboration is the California-China Climate Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. Established in 2019, the institute fosters climate policy exchanges between the two entities.
"Beijing seeks to compromise politically prominent individuals such as Newsom" – @anderscorr
— Philip Lenczycki 蔡岳 (@LenczyckiPhilip) November 16, 2023
The institute’s decision to collaborate with Tsinghua University and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries — both flagged by U.S. agencies for their roles in espionage and influence operations — has been scrutinized. The State Department has explicitly warned that such associations are employed by Beijing to covertly advance China’s global agenda, particularly at the local government level, deemed more susceptible to influence than federal counterparts.
Mary Kissel, a former adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has voiced concerns over California becoming a fertile ground for CCP influence operations, leveraging the state’s innovation hub, Silicon Valley. Intelligence analyst Anders Corr echoes this sentiment, criticizing Newsom for what he describes as falling into China’s “climate trap,” potentially undermining U.S. industries in favor of Chinese economic interests.
The California-China Climate Institute argues their partnership with China is vital to addressing the climate crisis. They emphasize the urgency of reducing climate pollution through shared research and dialogues, presenting their collaboration as an essential step towards a global solution.
Newsom’s focus on climate issues with Xi Jinping, bypassing discussions on China’s human rights records, has also attracted bipartisan censure. The Biden administration faces backlash for engaging in green energy partnerships with China while remaining silent on these critical humanitarian concerns.
While Newsom’s office did not offer comments, the broader implications of his actions resonate throughout the political landscape. Critics point to a troubling pattern: Progressive politicians in California are advancing cooperation with China, even as intelligence reports caution against the potential perils of such engagements.
As the relationship between California and China grows, questions linger over the implications for U.S. national security and economic independence. Newsom’s recent actions have intensified the debate on climate diplomacy and spotlighted the delicate balancing act between international collaboration and safeguarding American interests.