Sunday 23rd October 2016                 Change text size:

The opposite ends of China’s cleantech growth

The opposite ends of China’s cleantech growth

If the 19th century was Britain’s, and the 20th century was America’s, then the 21st century is heading in one direction only: China. Alex Blackburne takes a look at the Asian country’s rise to superpower status and beyond, with particular focus on its use of clean technology.

A well-known Soviet leader once said, “A capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him with”. Although it’s not totally clear who said it in the first place – sources have attributed it to Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev – the message remains abundantly clear.

The UK and the US are at the forefront of capitalism. We’ve sold our proverbial rope – in this case, a lot of our clean technology – to China, and one possible outcome could be that we’re hung and left swinging on the gallows.

That might sound a tad dramatic, but let’s have a look at the facts.

China, which now brings in over £40 billion a year from clean technology, has rapidly evolved into a hugely influential player in the sector over the past decade. It is increasing its production of green technologies by a massive 77% each year, according to an Associated Press report conducted in May this year.

The same report placed the Asian superpower second in the world in terms of how much of the country’s total GDP came from cleantech production, with only Denmark ahead of them.

To show the scale of green technology production and consumption, Column Five Media has come up with an interesting infographic that compares China and the USA’s cleantech usage, with the Chinese ahead of their American counterparts on almost every aspect of the study.

Fantastic” I hear you say. “Our planet is going to be saved by the Chinese.” Alas, no. Not at the current rate anyway.

Although China’s rise in prominence as world leaders of the cleantech industry is now absolutely set in stone, the country’s ever-increasing population means that other, non-green industries are also likely to flourish.

One slightly worrying fact is that relative to their population, if China consumed as much fossil fuels and produced as much carbon dioxide as the USA or the European Union do, we, and the planet on which we live, would be doomed.

China’s rise to superpower status is arguably one of the biggest shifts in geopolitics the world has seen.

The centre of power is moving eastwards. Despite being at the forefront of the clean technology growth – undoubtedly a positive thing – people fear China’s rising power as much as people feared the British Empire and the US before it.

This is because the country doesn’t seem content with just economic and technological superiority. Political and military dominance is also on the agenda for the Chinese.

If the military might of the country continues growing at the same speed as its cleantech industry, an increased Chinese presence in world affairs is inevitable.

Referring back to the quote from the beginning – “A capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him with“. Whilst a lot of what China will do with their increased GDP and power is speculation, China’s human rights record and attitude towards neighbours isn’t.

Are we in the west ready for China’s century?

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