China News - Spring 2007

Environmental energy efficiency in China

The Beijing Olympics will be 'green.' There is a whole range of projects designed to clean up the Chinese capital in time for the Games. A key feature is renewable energy and a recent seminar enumerated some of the targets for 2008. These included, 90% of Beijing's street lighting and 90% of heating for bathing running off solar energy, wind power generating 20% of the electricity used in Olympic venues and ground source heat pumps supplying energy for central heating and air conditioning for an area of 400,000 square metres.

At present coal provides 70% of China's energy. Developments are in hand to improve energy efficiency, to clean up the way coal is burnt to cut sulphur dioxide pollution and to sequester carbon dioxide emissions. There will be determined efforts to reduce the overall share of coal in the energy mix to 40% by 2030. An EU/China project is assessing methods of capturing the carbon dioxide when coal is burnt and storing it underground. The target is a practical demonstration of complete capture and storage by 2020. Energy efficiency is a vital subject at present, because for every dollar of GDP, China currently uses three times the world average-and ten times that used by Japan.

Some of the other methods of energy generation such as large dam construction and nuclear power are controversial. The Three Gorges dam will be fully operational in 2009 and will bring benefits of flood control, improved river navigation as well as 22 gigawatts (GW) of clean electricity. However large numbers of people have been displaced, historic sites inundated and some critics claim there are other environmental concerns. Hydroelectric capacity in China is planned to increase from 108 GW in 2004 to 246 GW by 2020 and contribute 25% of the nation's requirements. Nuclear power is planned to increase by a factor of five to 32 GW by 2020 using the latest pebble bed reactor technology.

Power from renewable sources features more prominently than nuclear. The target is to generate 15% of China's energy requirement by 2020 from renewable sources. Projects include solar, biomass and especially wind. A study believes that on shore turbines could eventually provide up to 250 GW and off shore as much as 750 GW, virtually satisfying the entire energy requirement of China.

The Chinese government is promoting 'green' methods of electricity generation by passing new legislation. Power companies with an installed capacity of more than 5 GW will have to ensure that 5% of output is powered by renewable sources (large hydro does not count) by the year 2010. This figure will increase to 10% by 2020. The 15 or so companies that meet this criterion account for more than half the total generating capacity. Government incentives include, tax concessions and subsidies to offset investment costs and the companies will also be allowed to charge higher tariffs for supplies sourced renewably. Electricity consumption in China is set to rise not only because of rising economic output, and increasing standard of living, but also because at present 70 million household do not have electricity (From China Review Issue 37(issued by GB-China Centre), November 2006).

NB. 'Greening the Dragon', a publication devoted to China's search for a sustainable future is available. This is a special supplement to the bi-monthly magazine, Green Futures' (Year's subscription is £24) Go to where the full text of 'Greening the Dragon' may be seen.

China's 'clean energy' technologies

China has one trillion tons of proven reserves of coal, only the USA and Russia have more. The country consumed 2.2 billion tons last year to generate 80% of its electricity and 75% of its home heating. Between 2001 and 2005, half of the electricity generating coal-fired power stations were small and old fashioned built by local officials often without Beijing's full approval.

The central government is now trying to remedy the situation. Energy efficiency has been made a national priority and hundreds of billions yuan will be spent over the next 20 years on the project. Nuclear plants will be built and renewable energy methods will be developed. These include solar forests, wind farms, biomass fuels and 'clean-coal' technology.

Ten new coal fired plants that require 17% less coal for electricity generation are now being built. The new plants also produces 14% less carbon dioxide and hardly any sulphur dioxide. But the best hope for eliminating carbon dioxide from coal fired power stations is using an as yet unproven technology and costly process (Internal Gas Combined Cycle-IGCS) which stores the carbon dioxide underground. China hopes it will begin operating its first three IGCS power stations by 2010.

Beijing aims to reduce energy consumption by 20% and reduce key pollutants, such as Sulphur dioxide by 2010. Implementing the plans will not be easy because of increasing electricity shortages in the south and south-east. However, an analyst has said that China is in fact adapting to new energy technologies faster than the USA, because embedded interests in the USA industry, perpetuates existing systems.

High oil prices, together with the problems associated with coal fired power stations, have driven the Chinese government to embrace 'clean-coal' technologies that were once considered uneconomical. State energy companies are believed to have invested $128 billion into new pipelines and plants that can gasify or liquefy coal and turn it into relatively clean diesel fuel for vehicles, methane for power generation and dimethyl ether for transport, home cooking and heating.

The world's first commercial plant, which converts coal directly into refined oil, is being built by Shenhua, a Chinese company, in Inner Mongolia. The product can be used for petrol for cars or for manufacturing plastics. Shenhua is also working with foreign companies including Shell and Sasol. Sasol is the South African pioneer of coal-to-liquid technology. By 2013, Sasol expects to be making 80,000 barrels of low-emissions diesel fuel a day at each of two new plants in Shaanxi and Ningxia. (From Newsweek 15/1/07)

From the British press

China's 'coal-fired boom'

The Sunday Times in a major article on 31 December 2006 entitled 'China chokes on a coal-fired boom' describes all the negative environmental aspects of coal burning with hardly a mention of any of the developments discussed in the first two reports in this months Sino File. In fact there is only one very short paragraph mentioning a team from Aston University (Birmingham) which is helping China in a 'biomass' project. The Sunday Times article introduces this item with (an impertinent statement !), 'Foreign countries are doing their utmost to persuade the Chinese of the merits of change'

Beijing talks tough to polluters

The biggest polluters in China have been ordered to halt all new projects in an effort to force them to take immediate action to meet environmental standards. They include four of China's biggest energy groups and the order follows China's failure to meet its targets for saving energy and controlling pollution. The deputy head of the Chinese State environmental Protection Agency said that some local authorities and industries have defied the Government's macro-regulation policy by pursuing their own interest in illegally developing high-energy-use and causing high pollution. (From The Times 12- 1-2007)

* See also below, From the Chinese press, 'China's Green watchdog.'

Africa embracing China

(by an African columnist, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala-formerly finance minister of Nigeria) The West is in a panic because there is a new suitor vying for Africa's attention. China, with nearly $1 trillion in reserves has decided to spend some of its dollars to secure access to oil, gas and minerals that lie in many African countries. There is unease about China being the new 'colonial master' and Africa having had its debt to the West cancelled, accumulating new debt from China. China is pragmatic to a fault and is willing to deal with counties without debates on human rights or on macroeconomic conditions and structural reform.

Nevertheless there is more to this new relationship than meets the eye. China has more to offer that is relevant to present Africa. China knows what it means to be poor and has evolved a successful wealth creation formula that it is willing to share with African countries. Africa's need for infrastructure is estimated at $20 billion a year for the next decade and this is understood and supported by the Chinese who believe that one key to their success is investment in infrastructure.

Thus they are willing to invest in railways, roads ports etc as part of the winning formula. This area is considered too risky by many of Africa's traditional partners. China presents an alternative viewpoint and a fresh approach.

China should be left alone to forge its unique partnership with African countries and the West must simply learn to compete. (From BBC Focus on Africa Jan-Mar 2007)

Africans treated as equals

Following on from the above report and in connection with the 48 African countries at Beijing's Summit Forum on China-African Co-operation. A common complaint amongst African politicians is that they are not treated as equals by Western nations. Add to this the history of European colonisation and American interference, the perception is that China treats them with more respect. A South African businessman and political analyst (Moeletsi Mbeki) said in the New York Times that China offers Africa a new model that focuses on straight commercial relations and fair market prices without the ideological agenda....they are the not the first big power to come to Africa, but they may be the first to not to act as though they are some kind of patron or teacher or conqueror. (From Chinatown-the Magazine No 24 Jan-Feb 2007)

Record Rolls-Royce orders

The Hong Kong Peninsula Hotel took possession of 14 'Peninsula Green' Rolls-Royce Phantoms (list price for each is $400,000-but duty doubles the price) on 14 December. The chauffeurs were trained in Britain, because apparently driving one model is not the same as driving another. The hotel has in the past bought 55 of these cars but the latest order required 16 small adjustments; for example a special box under the seat for chilled hand towels and reconfiguration of the battery to allow for a larger boot. Every year, 20 Rolls-Royces are sold in Hong Kong and a total of 70 across China, which is about to overtake Japan as the carmaker's third biggest market. Over 100 sales next year would not be a surprise according to the Rolls-Royce chief executive. (From The Economist 23-12-2006)

Diplomatic victory for China as North Korea nuclear talks resume

Three weeks after the nuclear tests, North Korea yesterday agreed to return to the negotiating table. This is a diplomatic victory for China. It emerged yesterday that China cut off oil supplies to North Korea in September amid reports that a nuclear test was imminent. Also an envoy was sent to read the riot act to the North Korean leader before the talks in Beijing yesterday. China's Foreign Ministry said that North Korea had decided to return to the negotiations after, 'candid and in-depth' meetings between Chinese, US and North Korean officials in Beijing. President Bush welcomed, North Korea's move and thanked China for its role in obtaining the agreement. (From The Independent 1-11-2006)

Japan to mend fences with China

Shinzo Abe, Japan's new prime minister, in a New Year speech, stressed his aim to build a 'mutually beneficial, strategic relationship' with China. Mr Abe visited Beijing only days after he became prime minister in October and in the past few weeks, a joint committee has convened to bridge differences in interpreting the recent history of China and Japan. The two countries have also agreed to co-operate more closely on energy and environmental issues. Japan is pressing for a visit to Tokyo of one of China's top two leaders early in 2007.

Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated after the former Japanese prime minister Koizumi regularly visited the Yasukuni shrine, a nationalistic war cemetery in which 14 Class A war criminals are buried. At the shrine itself, some wording has been 'softened' which may make it more acceptable for a Japanese prime minister to visit, without jeopardising relations with Korea and China. (From The Telegraph 2/1/07)

From the Chinese press

China's 'green watchdog'

The vice minister of the (Chinese) State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), Pan Yue, has put his foot down and refused to approve any future industrial projects that consume large amounts of resources or are highly polluting. In addition, SEPA has suspended 82 projects involving 112.3 billion yuan, which have fallen short of environmental standards. The authority has also forced the most polluted cities to crack down on non-complying projects. Four large power groups have been blacklisted because of their causing serious pollution.

These strict moves came after the Chinese central government appointed Pan as first vice minister of SEPA and demonstrates the firm attitude being taken on China's deteriorating environment. Pan has a hard job balancing high-speed economic growth and environmental degradation. But he is aware of the challenge and says he will resign if he does not succeed. According to Pan, the government has not achieved the goals set in 2006 to achieve a green growth GDP with energy savings and reduced emissions. He believes that environmental problems have been bottlenecks in the run-up to further developments and that China should look for renewable resources and green technology to reconcile economic growth and environmental conservation. (From Beijing Review 25-1-07)

Anti-corruption efforts

According to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) drawn up by the Berlin based organisation, Transparency International, China has shown an improvement scoring 3.3 in 2006 compared to 2.16 in 1995. (Ratings score; 10 for highly clean to 0, highly corrupt) This is in fact the biggest improvement amongst countries of the world. The fight against corruption is being led by Wu Guanzheng, secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. Wu is also a member of the Politburo, (and one of the most senior leaders in China.) At the Seventh Plenary Session in January, President Hu Jintao himself appeared and called for sustained fight against corruption. Last September, the secretary of the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China was sacked because of his involvement in a social security scandal-the third highest-ranking official to have been brought down in the last 20 years. At the same time, a further 10 high officials were stripped of their posts and a deputy commander of the navy was sentenced to life in prison for embezzlement-the highest ranking military man to be convicted of a crime. Figures from the Supreme People's Procuratorate show that between January 2003 and August 2006, 67,505 corrupt officials were convicted.

Transparency International's regional programme manager believes that corruption is not necessarily connected with a country's political system (democratic or non-democratic) nor its state of development, (developing or developed). He believes that corruption occurs if there is an opportunity and China's transition from a planned economy to a market economy and its transition from an agricultural society to an industrial one presents plenty of opportunities. The majority of corruption cases in 2006 were related to real estate.

To help the fight against corruption, China is co-operating with foreign countries and since 1987 has signed mutual legal assistance treaties with 49 countries and 83 bilateral agreements with foreign judicial bodies. The UN Convention against corruption, the most influential and comprehensive anti-corruption convention took effect in China on 12 February 2006. It is a legal framework for joint action. In addition there is a Sino-US Joint Liaison Group (JLG) to increase co-operation. The JLG met last April under the auspices of the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum where experts from 18 countries discussed the extradition of corrupt persons and the return of the proceeds of corruption. (From Beijing Review 25-1-07)

Cost of Beijing Olympics 30% cheaper than Athens Olympics

The Beijing Organising Committee has announced that ticket prices for sports events will range from 30 to 1,000 yuan. With an exchange rate of approximately 15 yuan to the £ sterling, prices will be about £2.00 to £66.70. For the opening ceremony prices will range from 200 to 5,000 yuan (approximately £13 to £333) and for the closing ceremony, from 150 to 3,000 yuan (approximately £10 to £200). It also announced that 58% of the 7 million tickets will cost 100 yuan or less (approximately £6.60).

The pricing policy was guided by a 'commitment to ensure that the greatest number of people would be able to experience the Olympic values and spirit'. In addition, students would be offered discounts and 14% of the tickets would be reserved for students for whom the qualifying events would cost only 5 yuan and the finals, 10 yuan. An overjoyed primary school child in Tianjin was reported as saying, 'Are you sure that its yuan and not euros!'

It is not know how much the tickets for the equestrian events in Hong Kong will be. The organising committee said that the reason for the much lower price is because China is a developing country. At least half of the tickets will be reserved for the domestic market with the rest going to foreigners and international sports organisations. (From South China Morning Post 30/11/06)

Beijing's public transport to be improved The Beijing municipal government blames the dire traffic problem on the inefficient public transport network. This is the main reason why so many people drive cars. In 2007, the municipal government is spending four billion yuan on public transport. In addition, relevant departments will consider ways of relieving congestion and encourage people to use public transport. (From Beijing Review, 4-1-2007)

Chinese government 'green list' for procurement The Chinese Ministry of Finance and the State Environmental Protection Administration have jointly issued China's first, 'Green List' for government procurement. The list includes more than 100 products that have received Chinese environmental-friendliness certification. Products come from 14 industries, covering automotive, printers, TV sets and furniture. The green procurement programme was initiated at central and provincial government levels at the beginning of 2007 and will be promoted around the country during 2008. (From Beijing Review, 4- 1-2007)

China's lunar rover

China's proposed lunar rover was exhibited at the Sixth China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong (near Macao) on 30 October 2006. It was displayed in a 50 square metre sandpit designed to simulate the moon's surface. Xinhua said the rover would be launched next year. The exhibition was an opportunity for Chinese aerospace leaders such as the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation to show their latest products. Boeing and Airbus were also present amongst companies from 18 other counties which included Russia and Brazil. (From Beijing Review 9-11-2007)

Chinese doctor to lead WHO

Margaret Chan was elected director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a full assembly vote on 9 November 2006. This is the first time a Chinese person has held a top-level leadership position in a UN agency. She is 59 years old and graduated from the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

Her career in public health began in 1978 when she joined the Hong Kong Department of Health, becoming the first female director of that department in 1994. In 2003, she became head of the WHO's Department of Protection of the Human Environment and later became a special representative for pandemic influenza and assistant director general for communicable diseases.

Dr Chan's appointment received strong support from the Chinese government and the local Hong Kong administration. This was in recognition of her dedicated leadership and crisis management skills in handling the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreaks during her tenure in Hong Kong. The new WHO chief said she would focus on reducing poverty, promoting health and preventing disease especially in developing countries. (From Beijing Review 16-11-2006)

More freedom for foreign journalists

China's State Council (China's cabinet) on 1 December issued a decree granting foreign journalists more freedom in reporting activities in the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games. Non-residents will not be required to be accompanied or assisted by a Chinese official when they report in China. They will be allowed to report independently in all locations without permission from provincial foreign affairs offices. They can also hire Chinese citizens to help them in their reporting. Also the custom procedures for vehicles and equipment used by them has been simplified by cancelling the requirement for a letter of assurance issued by a Chinese institution. The new regulations are effective from 1 January 2007 to 17 October 2008. (From Beijing Review 14-12-2006)

China may become scientific superpower

China is on the way to becoming a scientific superpower thanks to the massive increase on research spending and to the return to China of increasing numbers of Chinese scientists working abroad. This is one of the conclusions of London based think tank, Demos in a report, 'The Atlas of Ideas; Mapping the New Geography of Science.' China's own plan is to become an innovative nation by the year 2020 and could be a scientific superpower by 2050.

Demos's final report comes after an 18-month study focusing on the growth and pace of scientific innovation in China, India and South Korea. The fourth and final report provides an overview of the international situation and how the UK should respond. China is catching up fast with the centres of innovation of South Korea, and Taiwan. In some areas such as nanotechnolgy, China is moving even faster than Europe.

One of the Davos reports, forecasts that China, India and South Korea will reshape the global innovation landscape and that US and European pre-eminence in scientific innovation could no longer be taken for granted. Investment into scientific projects and innovation in China is growing rapidly and the impact on the international community is already significant the report says. Since 1999, China's spending on research and development (R & D) has increased by more than 20% per year and China has replaced Japan as the world's highest spender on R & D after the US. The rising number of multinational R & D centres in China, the steady return of Chinese graduates from the US and Europe and the increasing number of new graduates will help China reach its goal. There are as many engineers in the Beijing university district alone as there are in the whole of western Europe. The potential is enormous. (From China Daily 18-1-2007)

China-a top electrical goods producer China has overtaken Germany as the world's biggest producer of electrical products according to a report released by the Cologne-based Federal Agency of Foreign Economy. It is believed that China's exports in electrical products were valued at $78 billion which is higher than Germany's $64 billion. The US is in third place. The best sellers were electrical cells and power tools with home appliances also prominent, totalling $13 billion. Most of the exports were to Japan, the US and Europe. In the future, China hopes to expand sales in electrical equipment for medical purposes. (From Xinhua 18-1-2007)

Traffic jams in Beijing

Most of Beijing residents want their local government to deal with traffic congestion according to a survey conducted by the Beijing Statistics Bureau. From the survey which involved 2,430 persons, 33% said they were most frustrated by traffic congestion-the next two biggest issues were health care and employment. They survey was conducted before the annual sessions of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress and Municipal People's Political Consultative Conference to be held in late January.

There were 370,000 new motor vehicle licences in Beijing last year-more than 1,000 a day-and there are now more than 2.87 million vehicles in the capital. Beijing municipal government is planning to improve the public transport system to lure people out of their cars. The length of chartered bus lanes is to be increased from the present 165 kilometres (km) to 540 by 2010. Beijing's 15,000 buses carry three billion passengers each year. The metro system is to be increased from its present four lines totalling 114 km to nine lines totalling 200 km by 2008. By 2020, the system will have 19 lines totalling about 562 km. (From Xinhua 17-1-2007)

Sino File is compiled by Walter Fung with some input for From the Chinese Press by Teresa Ray.

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