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This is the first of regular weekly Cooketop News blog posts (scheduled to appear each Monday).

By reviewing the previous week’s top stories involving — broadly speaking —  China clean energy, the idea is to identify and comment on a particular  emerging trend/issue which points forward and can help illuminate news-in-the-making for the week(s) ahead.

By radio analogy, the commentary is meant to cut through static in the general coverage of whatever’s the issue at hand and present a clear frequency and better ‘signal-processing’ for helping to tune in on an enduring news issue.

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THIS WEEK’S COMMENTARY — HUNTSMAN, REPUBLICANS  & CHINA

Last week was the Iowa caucus and Tuesday of this week the New Hampshire primary.  The related questions which these contests have raised are what have Jon Huntsman’s China connections and qualifications done for his campaign effort and what are the implications for China given the current crop of Republican candidates.

Let’s start with the second question.  Liz Economy from the Council of Foreign Relations has done a better job than anyone at assessing the remaining field of candidates through the lens of their public positions on China.  To borrow liberally from her analysis, here’s what we’re looking at:

Mitt Romney says it’s all about the economy, stupid: Mitt Romney’s China policy is all about trade measures —keeping counterfeits out, protecting intellectual property, levying sanctions against unfair trade practices, pressing China on its currency, etc.  The question for an anti-“Big Government” candidate is who does all this work if not the government.

Ron Paul wants to make love, not war: Ron Paul appears to want to “go along to get along” with China:  stop intrusive surveillance, reconsider the Taiwan Relations Act,  drop the idea of import tariffs in retaliation for Beijing’s currency manipulation, and mute protestations over human rights issues.  As Economy has put it, there’s little doubt that “candidate Paul …would be Beijing’s pick for top dog.”

Jon Huntsman is long on experience but short on traction:  No surprise that the expertise in China policy is with former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman. Huntsman has all his facts in line. You can agree or disagree with his specific positions — opposing a China currency bill or engaging to promote political change in China—but you have to admit he knows his stuff.

Newt Gingrich jettisons balance to keep ship afloat:  Gingrich’s initial positions in the campaign were balanced and reasonable, calling on the U.S. to do the right thing and take action on the home front in order to be more competitive.  As his electoral options have narrowed though, his positions appear to be veering in a more extreme direction.  Stay tuned for his advertising campaign in South Carolina to see if he starts demonizing China.

With Rick Santorum, the question is  ‘Where’s the beef?’:   Despite having a lengthy book and a Senatorial career in the public record, there’s almost nothing to go on to explain how Santorum would approach China if elected President.  He did make a quote about going  “to war with China” to “make America the most attractive place in the world to do business.”  Huh?.

Rick Perry talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk:  “Communist China is destined for the ash heap of history because they are not a country of virtues. When you have 35,000 forced abortions a day…, when you have the cyber security that the PLA has been involved with, those are great major issues both morally and security-wise that we’ve got to deal with now.”  His actions?   Courting Huawei, a problematic company, to invest in Texas.

So, on to the related question, what has Jon Huntsman’s Mandarin-speaking ability and Ambassadorial command of the issues meant for his election prospects?  The answer, like a Rorschach, depends entirely on who you talk to.  His proponents invariably cite it as a positive (see NY Times article) and his detractors cite it as a liability (see story from last Thursday below).  Where’s the traction?  Answer: there’s maybe some but not much.

Fault-lines have been exposed in the body politic over these questions.  There’s no question that one of Ron Paul’s supporters went way, way over the line by insinuating Huntsman was questionably ‘American’ because he and his wife keep their adoptive children from China and India exposed to cultural traditions from those two civilizations, but nonetheless ideological conservatives generally seem to view his competence with China as itself  a cause for suspicion.

The first generation of Mandarin competent statesmen drew heavily from the offspring of Christian missionaries who grew up in China, people like the late Ambassador James Lilley.  Huntsman represents a second wave of high-level U.S. government officials who have Mandarin-competence through their two years of  Mormon service abroad.  (Tim Stratford, a former Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for China, is another example of this group of experts).  The third wave will come from younger Americans who, in step with China’s opening to the world, have been able to burrow deeper into language and cultural expertise.  They are making their way up the ladder of the U.S. government.  I can only hope that the American electorate — and the Republican Party — can find a way to value the knowledge they bring to public service.  The top rank of challenges which the U.S. faces will simply not be solved without constructive and effective engagement with China — and that requires people who understand, respect, and can operate in the sphere of Chinese language, culture and values.

(Disclosure: I have worked at various points in my career for Jim Lilley, Jon Huntsman, and Tim Stratford.)

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LAST WEEK’S COOKETOP NEWS

Here’s a listing of  some of the top stories covered in Cooketop News for Week 1 of 2012 (with hyperlinks):

Monday, January 2, 2012

Foxconn enters solar
Chinavasion’s High-capacity  Solar Charger
Protest in China – Ripple or Wave?
Bridge construction as economic development lever
10 Predictions for Cleantech in 2012

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top 20 Green Building Innovations of 2011
USDOC Sec. Bryson Faces a China Challenge
Cleantech Start-ups to Watch
Is China’s Solar Industry Entering Eclipse?
Public Housing Key as Export Machine Slows

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

‘Culture Campaign’ Dents Programming
Green Cars & Clean Energy: The China Angle
Cleaner Technology in Global Arctic Oil Race
Chinese Philanthropists Join to Protect Nature
China’s IPOs Top World’s Exchanges Despite Slump

Thursday, January 5, 2011

Air Pollution Hazardous for China’s Economic Health
Drought Drying out Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province
Rustbelt Cities Go Green to Strengthen Economies
China’s Corporate Debt Issuance Soars in 2011
Huntsman’s China Cred No Boost to his Prospects 
Econ Ties to China Key Issue in Taiwan Election 

Friday, January 6, 2011

10 Emerging Sustainable Cities to Watch
Solar Turbine Makers Turn to India & China
U.S. Manufacturers of Steel Wind Towers Cite China
LDK Solar Snags $64mm from PRC  for U.S. Projects
China Announces Plan to Levy Carbon Tax by 2015 

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That’s it for this week.  I hope you find this of some value to your own pursuits.  Give me a holler — either by leaving a comment below or by email — to let me know what you think, positive or negative.  For anyone with a driving passion to get each day’s edition of Cooketop News (minus the summary listing and commentary that I provide in this weekly post), you can subscribe by going to the Cooketop News site at http://paper.li/mterrycooke/1324752421 and clicking on the upper-right Subscribe button.  There is also an Archive feature on the site (upper-center) which allows you to look up any previous edition.

Oh, before signing off, I owe you an answer to the question in the title.  Jon Huntsman’s name in Chinese? 洪博培.  (And by the way, if you try searching for the name on China’s Twitter clone — Weibo — when you’re in China, you’ll likely find the name has been blocked).

Thanks to everyone for their support in 2011 and my best wishes for your health and happiness in 2012!

The U.S./China Clean Energy blog ends the year with close to six thousand views, a level I believe can increase several fold next year following the January 2012 release of Sustaining U.S.-China Cooperation in Clean Energy by the Kissinger Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center (WashDC).

I’ll close out the year by giving you this preview of Cooketop News, my Paper.Li aggregator providing “front-burner” updates about the U.S. Mid-Atlantic connection and “hot” insights on clean energy technology, investment and policy.  Okay, I’ll remove tongue from cheek now.  More prosaically, Cooketop News will be hitting the Internet airwaves on a regular daily basis (Mon-Fri) starting Monday, January 2nd. A summary of top stories will then be provided each week in a Friday post here on U.S./China Clean Energy along with personal observations about what impact the weeks events are having on ‘U.S.-China sustainability’ trends.

Here is the summary of stories from this week’s trial run:

Monday, December 26, 2011

California’s new Renewables Portfoliio Standard (RPS) program

 Predictions for Cleantech in 2012

 The smart grid according to Cisco

 How do you say ‘Google Search’ in Chinese? 2011 top search results in Asia

 China continues tradition of Christmas crackdowns

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

 JDS Architects wins major Green Building Design Award in Hangzhou

U.S. smart grid gets US$8bn boost toward a smarter and greener future

SEIA & GTM Research release “U.S. Solar Market Insight: 3rd Q 2011” report   

China proposes collecting bio-data on foreign visitors

 Big Oil redrawing the energy map with unconventional fuels

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Retrofits are the new darling for energy efficiency investors

China needs new policy course as capital tide turns

China plans Asia’s biggest coal-fired plant

Interactive map for tracking China’s global investment by sector

10 predictions for Cleantech and Sustainability in 2012

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 10 clean energy stories of 2011

China’s energy consumption now double the world average

U.S. DoE supporting research into advanced solar thermal

China drafting plan protect copper & other investments in Afghanistan

New funding could help lower cost of electric vehicle (EV) chargers

Friday, December 30, 2011

Food security to be a concern for China in 2012

Beijing on the horns of a new yuan exchange rate dilemma

Does China’s rare earth’s monopoly imperil clean energy?

Gordon Chang updates his ‘coming collapse of China’ prediction, 10 yrs later

5 predictions for Boston Cleantech in 2012

 

That’s it for 2011!  Enjoy an exhilarating slide into 2012 and I’ll look forward to seeing you on the other side of New Year’s Day.   Best wishes for the new year!

On October 11th, Mark Muro, Policy Director of The Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, presented the national-level chapter of the story of ‘Greater Philadelphia’s 21st century Clean Energy Opportunity’ at an event I organized in Philadelphia for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and the T.C. Chan Center for Building Simulation & Energy Studies of the University of Pennsylvania.

According to Muro, Philadelphia enjoys key advantages due to: (1) its position as #5 top-performing cluster nationally, (2) its participation in a national trajectory of fast-growing, high-quality jobs, (3) its profile of balance with middle-skill, middle-wage ‘green collar’ jobs; (4) its breadth of clean economy segments (air & water purification, lighting, nuclear, mass transit, professional energy services, solar PV, solar thermal, and wind); and (5) its location in the middle of the most vibrant clean economy corridor in the country (from Albany NY and Boston MA down to Washington DC and northern Virginia).

Future posts will help tell the other chapters of this story, including the City of Philadelphia perspective (Alan Greenberger, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development), the regional perspective (Mark Hughes, Task Leader for Policy, Markets & Behavior at the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Building Energy Efficiency (GPIC), the global perspective (Amy Fraenkel, UN Environmental Programme Regional Director for North America) and the U.S./China strategic opportunity (Terry Cooke, Founding Director of the China Partnership of Greater Philadelphia.

Stay tuned for more!

Note 1:  If you want to be sure you see each of these upcoming posts reliably and promptly, please click the “Follow” button on the WordPress toolbar immediately above this blog’s heading and an email will automatically be sent to you as soon as each post appears.

Note 2:   See   Brookings Backgrounder  for additional information on:  (1) the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program initaitive for clean energy clusters; (2) the intellectual antecedents of this policy work in the work of Michael Porter at Harvard University; and (3) how David Sandalow and Brookings helped translated this thinking into U.S. Government policy through the closely-connected Energy Innovation Hub (EIH) program and the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) program (via the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings).

Note 3: If you want to help push for Philadelphia’s emergence as a 21st century clean energy leader, please tweet or Like on Facebook or +1 this on G+, using the sharing tool below.  Thanks.

I was asked today what accounts for China’s outsized role in solar PV , amounting currently to roughly 50% of global share of production despite having a Lilliputian share of global consumption.  It comes down to three inconvenient truths.   That said, the degree of inconvenience of each truth varies with the point of view (e.g., ‘panda hugger’ vs ‘dragon slayer’ in the U.S. vs  ‘patriotic netizen’ in China) of who you happen to be talking with :

(1) Post-WWII, Asia (and notably China since 1982) has had clear advantages of cheaper land, cheaper labor and cheaper facilities relative to manufacturers in higher per capita income markets in the West. Since solar panel production has some basic similarities to the manufacturing process for computer memory chips (which in the 1990s were the basic ‘rice’ commodity of the IT boom in Asia), solar manufacturing has benefited from the natural ‘cluster effect’ of decades of chip manufacturing know-how of Chinese, Taiwanese and other investors on the mainland.

(2) The barriers to entry for solar manufacturers are lower than the earlier tech waves of integrated circuits and bio-technologies so national and local
government in China has seized on it to bootstrap their economies to a higher rung of the global value chain. This has meant various government subsidies (on the producer side) to the point of a casino mentality — more than 100 solar manufacturers in the single town of Dezhou in Shandong Province. (The Chinese government also rounded up and ramped up polysilicon supply when that key input for solar PV production tightened in 2010/11);

(3) There’s not yet an established market for solar products in China so almost everything is exported to Western markets — especially to those national
markets like Germany and Spain and state markets in the U.S. such as New Jersey that have been subsidizing the industry (on the consumer side). [Note: World Trade Organization rules tend to allow/encourage consumer-side subsidies and to sanction producer-side subsidies, hence the recent trade action by the 7 Western solar firms against China. However, these actions take time to work their way through the ‘python’ of WTO process).

As a wrote almost a year ago ( click here for link ), there’s a global boom/bust going on in PV solar and China is in the thick of it.

I was asked during the UNEP Symposium in Philadelphia yesterday how I thought shale gas and ‘tight gas’ projects — which are at an early stage of operation in various parts of the world such as the United States, China  and Argentina — may affect the development of existing renewable energy sources, such as geothermal, biomass, wind, solar, tidal.

There are different dynamics in advanced economies versus emerging economies as each responds to the shale gas opportunity.

In the advanced economies, the values framework for evaluating shale gas tends to emphasize the environment at the expense of economics.  This is the so-called “3 C’s” orientation of carbon and climate change.  Under this framework, shale and tight gas are only somewhat less carbon-intensive in comparison with traditional fossil fuel sources and their extraction entails media-ampliflied but not yet proven environmental risks associated with ‘fracking’ et cetera.

In the developing world, the tendency is instead to focus on economic and energy security benefits — the “3 E’s” of economics and energy exploitation.  From this viewpoint, the positives of shale gas — a relatively cheap and abundant and lower carbon energy source for a country like China — far outweigh negatives of as yet unproven environmental risk.  In any case, under the Chinese framework of development, industrial growth and wealth creation come first, and clean-up from the environmental impacts of fast growth come later.

The hard truth is that these the viewpoints in North America and East Asia should not be so divergent.  In a world of finite resources and global pollution, we can ill afford to be seeing different problems and talking past one another.  The common denominator and linchpin is long-term energy efficiency .  Efficient energy utilization is environmental stewardship at the same time that it is good business and the basis for good economic policy.  Efficient and diversified energy utilization promotes jobs, investment and a sustainable environment.  Neither the advanced world nor the developing world should be sequencing energy and environmental policy or prioritizing between them.  Both the U.S. and China could be pursuing a common approach, based on energy efficiency and designed to yield both economic and environmental benefits simultaneously.

By splitting the difference between the “3 C’s” and the ‘3 E’s” both countries could reframe the challenge as the “3  D’s” of diversified energy sources, dollar-accountability, and developmental sustainability. And by re-framing objectives on a realistic and common basis, strategic efforts such as the U.S.-China Shale Gas Resource Initiative may be able to get better global traction.

In the real world, it’s not shale gas versus renewables.  It’s shale gas and renewables balanced together for economic and environmental sustainability.

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