Global Green Shift
The greening of China’s industrial strategy中国产业发展战略的绿色化
The article is originally published on chinadialogue at: https://chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/12017-The-greening-of-China-s-industrial-strategy
China is forging ahead to dismantle its fossil fuel dependence and build its renewables and circular economy. 中国正在努力消除对化石燃料的依赖，打造可再生能源和循环经济。
The prominence of China’s role in the global green shift currently underway may seem a paradox. Whilst it has been despoiling its own environment and that of some other countries in pursuit of the same fossil-fuelled industrialisation strategy that made the West wealthy, China has also emerged as a renewables superpower, dwarfing other countries in its building of renewable capacity and the speed of its transition to innovations such as electric cars, trucks and buses. China is betting big on renewables and on a circular economy. Indeed, the success of its development depends on this wager succeeding. Scale is the key to understanding its strategy: China’s industrialisation is a process taking place at a scale without historical precedent.
Like all previous industrial powers, China initially depended on fossil fuels for its industrialisation. It has paid a terrible price for this – far more than earlier industrialisers, including its predecessors in East Asia. As China became the largest manufacturing power on the planet, it created a huge domestic market that provided a first port of entry to global industry for its manufacturing and service firms, on a scale that exceeded its East Asian predecessors. China was able to utilise its domestic banking system to channel flows of savings to firms as they sought to catch up with international rivals. In these ways, the strategy has followed earlier patterns of industrialisation, with emphasis on manufacturing, state guidance and state-derived finance, while exhibiting some differences in emphasis, such as the use of its own domestic market, its own finance and foreign reserves, and a combination of national and provincial state involvement and guidance.
像此前所有的工业强国一样，中国在工业化初期也主要依靠化石燃料。中国为此付出了惨痛的代价–甚至远远超过了包括其他东亚先驱国家在内的早期工业化国家。随着中国成为全球最大的制造业大国，中国创造了巨大的国内市场，这为其制造业和服务业企业进入全球产业链提供了规模远超其他东亚先驱国家的起锚地。中国能够通过国内银行系统引导资金流向努力追赶国际竞争对手的中国企业。在这些方面，该策略遵循了先发国家的工业化模式，即侧重于制造业并依靠国家产业指引和国有金融支持。但同时，它也表现出了一些中国特色，比如利用自身国内市场、金融和外汇储备，以及地方政府的参与。 But a feature of China’s industrialisation that is decidedly unique is its strategy for supplying the energy needed for its industrialisation efforts. Alongside China’s “black” industrialisation strategy, powered by fossil fuels, has been a “green” strategy, focused on renewables and circulated resources – again, at unprecedented scale. China has been greening its energy and resources system at a furious pace, while maintaining a dependence on fossil fuels that is steadily diminishing. The chart below reveals how China has been ramping up its green electric power system to become the largest green electricity producer on the planet. The shift in electric power generation towards water, wind and sun as sources is clear – a 15% green shift in capacity in just the past decade, an enormous change for such a huge technoeconomic system.
Electricity from renewable sources in China, 1990-2019
What is driving this green trend? 什么推动了这种绿色趋势？
If China were to proceed with the typical industrialisation strategy – based on fossil fuels and the plunder of raw materials – then it would face insuperable problems. These would not just be problems of shortages of resources and immediate environmental problems, but most centrally problems to do with the geopolitical limits to a fossil-fuelled strategy relying on virgin materials. To put it bluntly, China would face entanglements in oil wars and resource wars if it were to pursue such a strategy at the scale of industrialisation it is managing – not to mention the burden on its balance of payments as it sought to raise its imports of these fossil fuels. It would mean a horrendous 21st century – for China and for everyone else.
As interpreted by China, a green growth strategy is not so much about a return to nature, but instead involves a clear reliance on manufacturing of energy, as well as greening of food supply through increased reliance on enclosed urban agriculture. The advantage for China of renewables technologies is that they can be manufactured domestically and enjoy economies of scale and cost reductions associated with the manufacturing learning curve. 中国自己的解读认为，绿色增长战略与其说是回归自然，不如说是实现能源生产，以及通过都市农业实现粮食供应绿色化。对中国而言，可再生能源技术的优势在于它们可以在国内生产，实现规模效益，以及伴随着制造学习曲线的上升带来的成本降低。
It is not lost on China that these are all potentially the mainstream energy, transport and food production industries of the future, where the country’s state agencies clearly anticipate it will emerge as world leader, at the technological cutting edge. While the United States under President Trump battles to maintain the supremacy of its fossil fuel industries, China is forging ahead to dismantle its coal, oil and gas dependence and build strong renewables and resource recirculation industries based on its manufacturing strengths. This is what may be interpreted most accurately as China’s green growth industrialisation strategy.
同时中国也清楚，这些都有可能是未来能源、运输和食品生产行业的主流，中国的国家机构显然希望在这些领域成为世界领导者，并处于技术发展前沿。当特朗普总统领导下的美国为保住其在化石能源产业至高无上的地位而竭尽全力之时，中国正在逐步消除对煤炭、石油和天然气的依赖，并利用其制造业优势建立强大的可再生能源和资源再循环产业。这或许是对中国绿色增长战略最准确的解释了。 No alternative
别无选择 When one looks at the scale involved in its industrialisation, China really has no alternative to a green strategy. And in the typical no-nonsense approach of the Chinese government, their leadership has adopted it with determination and ambition. As China adopts this green shift strategy, so it drives down costs for itself and for all – and makes such a strategy more accessible to other industrialising countries like India, Brazil or nations in Africa. And so the green shift that is initiated by China becomes a global green shift – even if it is complicated by further investments by Chinese state-owned enterprises in coal power as part of the Belt and Road Initiative. This in turn opens opportunities for companies and countries nimble enough to take advantage of them – including companies based in the US, the EU or Japan. 从其工业化的规模来看，中国除了绿色战略别无他选。而且，按照中国政府一贯真抓实干的作风，其领导人在这个问题上也展现了足够的决心和野心。正是由于中国采取了这种绿色转型战略，不仅降低了自身成本，也降低了其他所有国家的成本，从而让这一战略更容易被印度、巴西或非洲等其他工业化国家所接受。因此，始于中国的绿色转型变成了全球的绿色转型（尽管中国国有企业在“一带一路”倡议下的一些煤电投资令这一转型趋势变得扑朔迷离）。这进而为那些具有敏锐洞察力的公司和国家——包括美国、欧盟或日本的公司——创造了机遇。
As China’s economy emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, it can be expected to focus even more on this green growth strategy. After all, this is where China holds decisive competitive advantages in terms of manufactured exports and energy as well as resources security. The 14th Five Year Plan can be expected to place primary emphasis on both features of China’s industrialisation in the 2020s – the greening of its energy, transport and industrial systems, and the growing levels of resource recirculation (e.g. “urban mining” of electronics materials) as it pursues circular economy strategic initiatives. 随着中国经济逐步摆脱新冠疫情的影响，绿色增长战略获得的关注也会更多。毕竟，这就是中国在制成品出口、能源以及资源安全等方面的决定性竞争优势所在。预计“十四五”规划将着重强调本世纪二十年代中国工业化的两个主要重心——能源、运输和工业系统的绿色发展，以及随着循环经济战略的不断推进，资源再循环水平的提高（例如，电子材料的“城市采矿”）。
At the time of writing, oil prices have hit a record low (even moving into negative territory) and so no doubt some tactical purchases are being made by China. But it would be a serious error to regard these purchases as deflecting China from its long-term strategy of green growth, and the energy and resource security it brings with it.