Chinese government officials and state-controlled media agencies have recently ramped up their rhetoric against the United States on the issue of climate change, portraying the U.S. as not doing enough to limit greenhouse emissions even though China is by far the world’s biggest polluter.
One shot fired in the propaganda war came this week in the form of an interview that CGTN America, the U.S. affiliate of the Beijing-controlled China Central Television (CCTV), conducted with retired Army Lt. General Russel Honoré.
Honoré, who is founder of the environmental group Green Army, decried in the CGTN interview that a “large part” of the population in his native Louisiana denies the existence of climate change.
Honoré has been in the news recently after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi picked him to conduct a review of security failures leading up to the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Honoré, who retired from the Army in 2008, first gained national prominence for leading the disaster recovery effort following Hurricane Katrina.
In his CGTN interview, Honoré said that Louisiana pays “a dear price” for energy jobs in the state because of pollution generated by onshore and offshore drilling.
Honoré posted a link to the CGTN video on his Twitter page on Sunday.
Honoré did not praise China’s response to climate change, and his remarks criticizing Americans’ views on the issue were similar to those from other environmentalists. But in giving the interview, Honoré provided fodder that China’s propaganda mills used to subtly tarnish the image of the U.S.
According to Freedom House, a pro-democracy think tank, the Chinese Communist Party’s media organs typically push “soft content” to their millions of subscribers and social media followers that is not easily identified as propaganda. But the state-controlled outlets can quickly be activated “to deliver harsh CCP propaganda to large global audiences” when needed, according to Freedom House.
“Sprinkled among run-of-the-mill posts about pandas, development projects, and Chinese culture, more aggressive and negative content targeting perceived CCP enemies has appeared over the past year,” Freedom House said in a report last year entitled “Beijing’s Global Megaphone,” which analyzed the activities of outlets like CGTN, China Daily and People’s Daily.
The U.S. Justice Department requires CGTN to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which was enacted to track foreign propaganda aimed at the U.S.
How to deal with climate change where people don’t believe it’s real? https://t.co/mWv88Zl5sN via @cgtnofficial @prayerfeathers @AliVelshi @GreenARMY_La @SierraClub @ClimateReality @algore @EPAMichaelRegan @EnvDefenseFund @ZoeticGlobal
— Russel L. Honore’ (@ltgrusselhonore) April 19, 2021
The interview with Honoré comes as Chinese and U.S. officials are poised to meet to discuss potential cooperation on climate change.
John Kerry, the Biden administration’s special envoy for climate change, visited China last week to meet with his his Chinese counterparts to discuss a climate summit to be hosted by President Joe Biden.
While Kerry was in Shanghai, Chinese foreign minister Zhao Lijian criticized the U.S. government’s track record on climate change and the Trump-era decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.
Zhao asserted that the Biden administration’s move to re-commit to the Paris Climate Accord was “nothing to brag about.”
“Actually it should be ashamed of it,” Zhao said, according to Bloomberg.
The Chinese government has criticized the U.S. on climate change even though China is by far the world’s worst polluter.
China accounts for nearly 30% of carbon dioxide emissions each year, more than the U.S. and European Union combined. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, China emitted more than 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide in 2018, versus 5.4 gigatons for the U.S.
Honoré did not respond to questions about whether he was aware of CGTN’s propaganda activities or whether he was compensated for the interview.
Pelosi announced on Jan. 15 that Honoré would lead an investigation into security measures at the Capitol before the Jan. 6 riots.
Pelosi appointed the retired general despite numerous conspiracy theories he floated on television and social media in the aftermath of the Capitol breach.
“Once this all gets uncovered, there was complicit actions at the Capitol Police,” he said in an interview on MSNBC on Jan. 7.
“A police chief has been fired, but now we need to look at a special investigation. Was he complicit, along with the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House and the Senate? It gives the appearance of complicity.”
CGTN America did not respond to a request for comment.