There is a belief among some in Washington that the United States can deter communist China from invading Taiwan, hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for human rights abuses, and protect its own national security while collaborating with China on other issues, such as climate change. It is in that spirit that U.S. climate envoy John Kerry was in Beijing this week to “reset” climate negotiations with the CCP.

There is a similar belief among some both in and outside of Washington that Beijing is a necessary partner on matters of the environment, one without which the world might well be doomed. In a letter sent to President Joe Biden and U.S. lawmakers last week, 40 progressive groups urged the administration to “eschew the dominant antagonistic approach to U.S.-China relations” and “shift from competition to cooperation.”

Both beliefs rest on a deeply flawed understanding of the Chinese Communist Party, its diplomatic tactics, and its ambitions. For while Washington has compartmentalized climate change, the issue is, for Beijing, enmeshed in the wider U.S.-China bilateral relationship. As a result, Xi Jinping and his Politburo strategically leverage dialogue on climate to elicit concessions in other areas, such as technology or trade. While Mr. Kerry might regard climate as a “ standalone issue ,” Beijing does not see it, or any other policy matter, in the same way.

For the CCP, negotiations are also not a collaborative attempt at a joint solution to a problem but a battle to be won. This is in some respects cultural — rooted in Confucianist doctrine, a narrative that tells of China’s storied international victimhood, and the CCP’s mistrust of all things foreign. To compromise, then, is to lose. This sense of urgency has become all the more palpable in recent years since China’s “national rejuvenation” and President Xi’s vision of a “new world order” are now at stake.

America’s folly is that it does not approach negotiations in a similar manner, and it appears not to have grasped the method of Beijing’s ways. In his exchange with CCP Defense Minister Li Shangfu this week, veteran diplomat Henry Kissinger suggested America “and China should eliminate misunderstandings, coexist peacefully and avoid confrontation.” Yet the U.S. has attempted precisely this for more than 30 years, including on matters of the environment, with few substantive results.

Well known by now is that China is not only the world’s biggest polluter — responsible for one-fourth of global greenhouse gas emissions and half of its coal production and consumption — but that it shows no signs of abatement. In 2022 alone, China added 106 gigawatts of new coal-fired projects, equivalent to 100 large coal-fired plants and the most since 2015. Combined, the entire world managed to add just one-sixth of that.

Through its Belt and Road Initiative, the CCP has continued to finance carbon-intensive projects. Between 2014 and 2017, 91 % of energy sector loans made by China’s six major banks went to fossil fuel projects — a number that has likely grown since then. Should this trajectory persist, the BRI could increase global temperatures by 2.7 degrees Celsius , according to ClimateWorks Foundation, a nonprofit organization that monitors global climate efforts.

On the heels of Mr. Kerry’s visit, Mr. Xi yesterday said Beijing would pursue climate change policy at its own pace and “not influenced by others.” In a March 2022 speech, he similarly suggested that China’s climate goals must “proceed from national conditions” and “can’t be detached from reality.” Carbon neutrality should not come at the expense of “normal life,” Xi said . Translated from CCP doublespeak into layman’s terms, this means that Beijing will continue to proceed as it pleases, having prioritized its expansive understanding of national security above all other matters. Call it environmentalism, with Chinese characteristics.

A similar logic extends to other areas. Chinese fishing vessels, of which Beijing has more than 10,000 , now deplete the world’s oceans of stock. For one month in 2020, 300 Chinese vessels fished for more than 73,000 hours off the coast of the Galapagos Islands, prompting local officials to warn of ecological collapse. Off the coast of Ghana, Chinese vessels catch some 2.4 million tons of fish per year. The ships often sail illegally within Ghana’s exclusive economic zone and rely on front companies to bypass international law. For the CCP, food and territory are at stake.

On climate as on the environment, China has repeatedly made clear there is nothing to negotiate — that it is not a partner, but indeed the problem. Any attempts by the Biden administration or progressives to make it otherwise would be a mistake. The risk is that the U.S. could end up compromising its interests while receiving nothing in return, as largely happened this week. By “partnering” with China, too, the U.S. could forfeit its remaining leverage to hold Beijing to account.

The vacuous talking must then stop. Fanciful visions of China being brought to the table must be accepted as just that: fantasy. The U.S. must recognize that, for the CCP, the climate issue is one of many tools used to advance its agenda, at the heart which lies a weakened America and a globally restored China. It is part of the wider battle that is to be won, one that America cannot afford to lose.

Aleksandra Gadzala Tirziu, Ph.D. (@awgadzala) is the founder of the geopolitical risk firm, Magpie Advisory, a visiting fellow at Independent Women’s Forum, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, and a contributing editor with the New York Sun.