We’re pleased to share here an invited submission by James Wheatcroft,  picking up and advancing the conversation from the previous post about rising levels of Chinese clean energy investment in various regions of the U.S. (as well as from the Jan 3rd  BusinessWeek article cited in that post).  Here’s the expert sounding which James takes on the rising level of Chinese investment. My conclusion? We’re in the trough of a wave.

China’s Suntech in Arizona — Reflections on Real-world Globalization by James Wheatcroft

“The move by Suntech to invest in a US manufacturing facility is positive news for Phoenix and a triumph for Barry Broome, CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. Barry like thousands of regional business development organisations in the West are trying to figure out how to attract Chinese money into their area, and are prepared to offer grants and incentives to do so.

So: why have the Chinese done this?

Cynics would say that this is a move by the Chinese to circumvent US “Buy American” trade clauses. They would also say that this facility is tiny compared to the vast plants that Suntech and other Chinese PV manufacturers have in China. I say this is an emerging trend that will continue; in fact I know of another very large Chinese State Owned energy company that is seriously considering a European plant.

To me this is more about nationalism, carbon footprint and true globalisation.


There is a real national fervour in China these days. People and businesses are more confident and look to demonstrate this confidence abroad. China has long had a “go abroad” policy in many industries, and this reflects the fact that many State Owned Enterprises are awash with capital and are seeking to balance their portfolio of investments-  by investing outside China.

The logic is very obvious. If “Buy American” becomes a serious purchasing standard, the bar is raised in terms of price, allowing US wage levels to be built into the cost base. Therefore a small facility in the US becomes well worth the risk for Suntech.

Carbon Footprint

There is much talk in Europe about a possible tariff system based on carbon footprint. Certainly in the UK market, where I operate, regional councils and housing associations (who are all looking at installing panels), are beginning to include carbon footprint as a purchasing criterion. It is not a legal requirement but it is increasingly  being seen as a form of ‘best practice.’ In the long term, carbon footprint taxes on a Pan-European basis are possible. From a Chinese perspective therefore there  is now a good argument  that if you wish to win public sector business in the EU, you need to have a base in the EU..


Globalisation is no longer, as we saw in the late 20th – early 21st centuries, only about US and European companies either tapping global markets or sourcing from them. Chinese and Indian companies are already leading this investment trend. US PV makers that are feeling the pinch from Asia are building PV plants in China. This turnaround – where Chinese companies are feeling the pinch  from ‘Buy American’ clauses and building plant in the US,- is merely the next step in true globalisation, and if you ask Barry Broome or the 75 people working at Suntech Phoenix- they would tell you that they’re pretty happy about it.

James Maclean Wheatcroft, based in the UK is a consultant in the Chinese green energy, media and communications markets. His team of consultants on the ground in China has delivered more than $80 million per year in energy joint ventures. James is currently working with both Chinese and European companies and governments to benefit from the current boom in Chinese energy