In this fact check we looked at one of many highly controversial Tweets about climate change posted by US president Donald J. Trump. In November of 2012 he stated that “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive”. We have found this claim to be false.
While in 2012 Trump was still far away from his Presidency and it seemed unlikely, the impact of his claims – this one included – sheds light on his further stands and actions towards both climate change and U.S.’s relationship with China.
Climate Change Is Real
We believe it is important to note the difference between “weather” and “climate change.” The weather changes constantly since it is dependant on many different factors, which wrongfully gives footing to confused climate change deniers. When we say “climate change” we are referring to what the Oxford Dictionary describes as “changes in the Earth’s weather, including changes in temperature, wind patterns, and rainfall, especially the increase in the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere that is caused by the increase of particular gases, especially carbon dioxide “. An overwhelming majority of the scientific community agrees that global warming is real, one of them being Naomi Oreskes, Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University. In year 2016 Oreskes and associates completed the Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human caused global warming which compiled the conclusions of over 12.000 papers analysing expert opinions on climate change. In this paper they concluded that 90 to 100% of climate scientists think that humans are the main cause of the recent global warming phenomenon. Many other concerned climate scientists are doing their part in providing proof that global warming is real and a danger to us all.
While climate scientists may be in agreement, the same cannot be said for Donald Trump. In 2012 Trump said global warming was created by and for Chinese manufacturing, but have his attitudes and accusations changed since then? Over the last eight years, Donald Trump has claimed that climate change is a Chinese hoax, then denied saying that and went back and forth about it. In 2013 he tweeted that global warming is a hoax and three years later denied ever saying that. While he donated money to fight climate change back in 2014, in 2017, after he had sworn as U.S. President, he made cuts to climate change research and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney called it “a waste of money”. In 2018 Trump claimed he doesn’t think it’s a hoax, but doesn’t know that it’s manmade.
One of the best pieces of evidence showing that Donald Trump doesn’t understand global warming or its implications for humankind, is his decision to exit the Paris Climate Accord in 2017 which he justified by stating he was “doing what is fair for the US”. In his forementioned speech he claimed to be doing so in order to save the jobs of people working in the “dirty industries”, however it would appear he hasn’t even managed that, all the while keeping the infamous title of the world’s second worst polluter, right behind China.
It was not made by or for the Chinese
As is evident by now, global warming is not a political tool invented by the Chinese, it has a strong scientific background. So why did Donald Trump accuse China of making it up? Let’s look at the facts. Manufacturing is crucial for both China and the US. A chart by Statista shows that in 2018, China accounted for 28% of global manufacturing output, placing the country on top of the world manufacturing, while US took second place with 16.6%. When speaking about each country’s manufacturing individually, according to manufacuring.gov it is the fourth largest industrial sector in the US, representing about 11% of the gross domestic product. Records from October 2020 show that 15.6 million or 4.8% Americans are employed in the manufacturing sector. As for China, manufacturing made up 46.2% of their 2014 GDP and employed about 400 million people, or 30% of the workforce. While it is a known fact that the US and China are in an intense rivalry when it comes to manufacturing, it is unlikely that global warming was created to make the US manufacturing non-competitive. According to Forbes, climate change will have some negative effects on manufacturing in the US, but those effects can only hit China, the number one manufacturer, even worse.
The Relationship Between US and China
The relationship between these two forces is far too complex and layered to be fully explained in just a few sentences, since it spans over more than 7 decades. They just never seemed to be on the same side, from the Korean War to the handling of the Covid crisis. The US struggled with maintaining a positive attitude towards China as it stomped across Asia in its “One China” program. One example of the confusion the US faced, and propagated, during these times is the issuing of The Six Assurances to Taiwan the same year they signed the Joint Communique with the People’s Republic of China. In October of 2000 things were seemingly looking up, with US President Bill Clinton signing the US-China Relations Act which normalized trade relations between the two countries.
It was all going swimmingly until China announced an almost 18% increase in military expenditures, and it certainly didn’t help that just one year later it surpassed Japan as the largest US foreign creditor, only to take the US’s spot as the world’s leading economy in 2010. In 2012 China got new leadership, and president Xi Jinping seemed keen to develop a positive relationship with then-president Barack Obama. The US and China appeared to be on the same page. Even after the 2016 elections in the US that resulted in Donald J. Trump becoming president, the relationship between the two forces remained stable, at least until 2018 and the start of a trade war between them. The deterioration of their relationship continued in 2019, as the US accused China of being a currency manipulator. The feud later extended into areas such as technology when the US placed the company Huawei on entity list, which made it more difficult for Chinese tech moguls to do business with US companies. One of the most recent conflicts involved the failure of US engagement with China. The US Secretary Mike Pompeo delivered a speech where he mentioned a few reasons why the engagement really failed, namely the repression in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, blows to the economy and intellectual property theft.
We haven’t found one shred of evidence to support Donald Trump’s tweet about China manufacturing global warming. Finding evidence about the existence of global warming wasn’t that hard, since Oxford Dictionary offers a good explanation of this concept and professors from Harvard University wrote a paper supporting the thesis. Our conclusion is that this statement was false. It was a product of several decades of tense international relationships between the US and China that never really ended. While these two countries are the two biggest manufactures in the world, no sane person would ever believe one of them created global warming, let alone tweet about it.
While it is certainly good that we have the freedom of speech in the modern world, in our opinion, this should not apply to high profile individuals who have the power to sway the minds of millions. Twitter’s own fact checking initiative encourages people to think about what they read and what is the motivation behind what someone says (especially a future, existent or former President).
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Matea Grgin and Karin Sergo, University of Zagreb, HR
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