China Environmental Law

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Greentech Wars

December 4th, 2009 · No Comments

A “competition for dominance in the greentech “war” is being quietly started;” our competitor has “launched a new ‘carbon-economic revolution’” and we have been left behind at the “starting gate.”

Is Tom Friedman having another China moment?  No, these words come from a Chinese columnist in the China Youth Daily (A new era of “the old carbon seller;” a new energy strategy of playing “catch up.” 新时代的”卖碳翁” 新能源战略要”迎头赶上”).   In comparison to the West which has developed a careful industrial strategy and accumulated significant technological advantages, the columnist says that China’s foray into the greentech economy has been a little naive. He asserts that the development of a Chinese greentech sector has been misguided, fuelled by dreams of “quick profits,” leading to crazy investments, excess capacity, and a greentech “bubble.”

While there may be some truth in what the columnist says, his rhetoric makes it clear that there are factions in both China and the US that believe they can benefit from greentech war and competition metaphors.  They seem quite stale, unreflective, and insincere to me.  They also exploit deep seated, if irrational, fears on both side.  I don’t recall any articles warning that the US was falling behind Germany in the greentech war (although that would have made more sense).  On the Chinese side, the war metaphors are pushed by those who believe that Western efforts to get China to limit its carbon emissions are simply ploys to contain China’s rise and put a “noose” around its economy.

Can we please retire this rhetoric?  Both countries have their strengths and can make unique contributions to our shared goal. Let’s stop fighting a war where both sides believe they are the losers.

Tags: US-China relations · carbon emissions · energy policy · miscellany

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