Red Alert: China Time, China Scale (10/12/11)

Red Alert: China Time, China Scale Peter Greenwood, Executive Director of Strategy, China Light and Power Group Stephen Leeb, Co-author, Red Alert Alex Wang, Visiting Professor, UC Berkeley School of Law Julian Wong, Attorney, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; Former Advisor, U.S. Department of Energy The four China watchers assembled for this Climate One panel debate the motives for, and the implications of, China’s domestic climate action, particularly its abundant clean energy investments. Stephen Leeb, co-author, Red Alert, is the panel’s contrarian. “I don’t think China does anything with the world’s interest at hand; I think they do everything with China’s interest at hand. Climate change is very much a mixed bag for them. Much more important to them is the issue of resource scarcity.” Leeb was suspicious of the intent of China’s renewable energy investments. China, he says, aims to control the solar market to the detriment of foreign players, including the United States. Julian Wong, an attorney with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, agrees with Leeb, up to a point. Yes, energy is a pivotal issue in China’s economic growth, he says, and scarcity issues are “high in the minds of China’s leaders.” He also cites the increasing importance of environmental protection in preventing unrest. “Ultimately, this Communist Party is in power as long as the people allow it to be. If you are getting protests by citizens, by residents, on very fundamental needs, that’s going to get the attention of leaders.” Alex Wang, a visiting professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law, emphasizes the importance of the environmental protest movement, citing events this summer at a chemical plant in the city of Dalian and at facilities operated by Jinko Solar. “People are getting more wealthy. They are getting better educated about environmental issues, and they realize that is impacting their health, their children’s health,” he says. Counter to Stephen Leeb, Peter Greenwood, Executive Director of Strategy, China Light and Power Group, says we should vaunt not vilify China’s investments in wind and solar. “It’s not actually, necessarily, a bad story for the rest of the world. Wind turbine prices have fallen in the last couple of years by about 20%. A lot of that is due to the efficiency and scale of Chinese manufacturing,” he says. “What does that do? It means that wind projects that were previously uneconomical become economical. Sites that were previously not feasible become feasible. Subsidies that might otherwise have to be paid by Western and other governments can perhaps operate at lower levels. That’s a beneficial story.” This program was recorded in front of a live audience at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on October 12, 2011 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

by Climate One