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Biden’s Climate Envoy, John Podesta, Has Close Ties to a Chinese Front Organization

John Podesta's ties to a Chinese influence group cast doubts on his ability to effectively negotiate with China on climate change policies.

John Podesta’s recent appointment as Climate Envoy by the Biden administration marks yet another controversial turn in the ongoing saga of American climate diplomacy. Podesta, a figure well-ensconced in Democrat politics and a veteran of both the Clinton and Obama administrations, comes to the position with a history of engagement on climate issues. However, it’s his connections to the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), a Chinese United Front-linked organization, that cast a long shadow over his capability to negotiate effectively with China on climate change.

Podesta’s affiliation with CUSEF, a group founded by billionaire Tung Chee-hwa—a figure deeply intertwined with the Chinese Communist Party—poses significant concerns. Notably, CUSEF has been involved in organizing dialogues between U.S. political figures and Chinese officials, fostering an environment ripe for influence by the Chinese state. Such connections are alarming, given the paramount role China plays as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and a key player in global climate negotiations. Most disturbingly, Podesta’s firm accepted $900,000 from CUSEF for lobbying services between 2015 and 2017.

Under Podesta’s watch, the Center for American Progress (CAP), which he founded, engaged closely with CUSEF, leading delegations to Beijing and facilitating discussions on U.S.-China relations, including climate change. This collaboration raises questions about the impartiality of Podesta’s approach to climate diplomacy, especially considering the lenient terms under which China was bound by the Paris Accords—a pact Podesta helped negotiate during his tenure in the Obama administration.

The Paris Accords, criticized for their uneven demands on China compared to the United States, exemplify the pitfalls of a negotiation strategy overly accommodating to Chinese interests. With China allowed to continue increasing emissions until 2030, the accords represented a significant diplomatic win for Beijing, achieved in part through the personal diplomacy of figures like Podesta and his predecessor, John Kerry.

As Podesta steps into his role as Climate Envoy, it’s essential to scrutinize the influence his past associations might wield on his negotiations with China. The Biden administration’s pursuit of climate cooperation with China, despite the deteriorating broader relationship between the two superpowers, necessitates a vigilant approach to ensuring American interests are not compromised.

While National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan lauds Podesta’s experience and vision for a climate-resilient economic future, it’s critical to remain wary of the potential for Chinese influence to sway American climate policy. Podesta’s history with CUSEF and his apparent leniency towards China in past climate negotiations raise questions about how effectively he would negotiate for U.S. interests. The road ahead in climate diplomacy is fraught with complexities, and Podesta’s navigation of these waters will be telling of the Biden administration’s stance on China and the climate crisis.

Robert Chernin

Robert Chernin

Robert B. Chernin has brought his years of political consulting and commentary back to radio. As a longtime entrepreneur, business leader, fundraiser and political confidant, Robert has a unique perspective with insights not heard anyway else. Robert has consulted on federal and statewide campaigns at the gubernatorial, congressional, senatorial, and presidential level. He served in leadership roles in the presidential campaigns of President George W. Bush as well as McCain for President. He led Florida’s Victory 2004’s national Jewish outreach operations as Executive Director. In addition, he served on the President’s Committee of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Robert co-founded and served as president of the Electoral Science Institute, a non-profit organization that utilizes behavioral science to increase voter participation and awareness. Robert can be heard on multiple radio stations and viewed on the “Of the People” podcast where you get your podcasts.