Progressive groups backed by billionaire George Soros and several liberal philanthropies are calling on President Joe Biden to ignore China's human rights record and partner with the Communist regime to fight climate change.
Forty-eight progressive organizations issued the letter to Biden this week, including prominent outfits like CODEPINK, Sunrise Movement, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and ActionAid USA. The groups accuse the White House and Congress of taking an "antagonistic approach" to U.S.-China relations that will serve as a "major barrier" to cooperation on climate change. Several of the groups have taken money from liberal organizations that have funded Chinese government-linked programs.
"We are deeply troubled by the growing Cold War mentality driving the United States' approach to China—an antagonistic posture that risks undermining much-needed climate cooperation," reads the letter, published by Politico.
The letter could open the groups and their progressive donors up to allegations of hypocrisy. While the organizations say they support human rights and pro-democracy causes, the letter glosses over China's human rights record and its ongoing crackdown on pro-democracy groups. The letter makes only one passing reference to "human rights" and is far more critical of the United States than China. China has carried out genocide against Uyghur Muslims in western China, and Chinese authorities have cracked down on pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong.
Some of the biggest progressive philanthropies in the country fund groups that signed on to the letter. Soros's Open Society Foundations gave $500,000 in 2019 to the Sunrise Movement, which supports a number of left-wing causes, including defunding the police. Democracy PAC, which is heavily funded by Soros, contributed $250,000 to Sunrise's political action committee in April 2020.
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund contributed $100,000 to the Sunrise Movement Education Fund in 2019. The Rockefeller philanthropy has funded numerous China-based environmental nonprofits with links to the Chinese Communist Party. The Washington Free Beacon reported in January that the Rockefeller Brothers Fund gave $400,000 to the China Environmental Protection Foundation, $750,000 to the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, and $200,000 to the China Youth Climate Action Network, all of which have links to Communist Party officials.
Soros's group gave nearly $11 million from 2016 to 2019 to Global Witness, a progressive investigative news organization that also endorsed the letter. The Ford Foundation, one of the largest philanthropies in the country, gave $7.8 million to Global Witness from 2006 through this year. The Ford Foundation recently gave $2 million to Chinese universities linked to the Chinese military, the Free Beacon reported. The charity also funds a journalism center at Howard University that recently hired controversial journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.
ActionAid USA, a signatory to the letter that claims to fight poverty and injustice, received $175,000 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund from 2016 to 2018. Open Society Foundations gave ActionAid $40,000 in 2019.
The Biden administration has struggled with how to balance confrontation with China over its human rights record while developing dialogue with Beijing on the climate change issue. China is seen as a key partner in the climate change fight due to its carbon emissions, population size, and industrial capacity.
Some policymakers want the administration to take a more aggressive approach toward China on issues like detention camps for Uyghur Muslims in western China, the crackdown on pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong, and investigations into the origins of the coronavirus.
John Kerry, the administration's climate czar, has faced criticism for saying that he has avoided discussing hot-button issues with his Chinese counterparts during discussions about climate change strategy. He suggested in April that China's ongoing genocide against Muslim Uyghurs in western China should "not get in the way" of a U.S.-China climate agreement.
Kerry conceded in congressional testimony in May that China relies on Uyghur slave labor to build solar panels.