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By Anum Yoon

Reposted from the Triple Pundit website post on May 2015

Seoul, South Korea, was ranked as the most sustainable city in Asia by
Seoul, South Korea, was ranked as the most sustainable city in Asia on this year’s Sustainable Cities Index, thanks in part to its planned “smart city,” Songdo. If this rendering makes the city look massive, that’s because it will be: Its future population is projected at around 2 million — around the same as the cities of Detroit and Philadelphia combined.

This year’s Sustainable Cities Index reported the top 10 sustainable cities of 2015. The Index provided an overview of 50 of the world’s cities and what their performance rankings were in relation to the factors of people, planet and profit – the three pillars of the triple bottom line. Europe dominated the top 10 overall rankings, holding seven of the 10 places. And with good reason: Europe has developed an impressive environmental legislation over the past 40 years. They have continuously demonstrated how improving the environment could drive innovation and job creation, while improving the quality of life for everyone.

But seeing those European cities on the list isn’t what impressed me. I was more fascinated by the fact that the remaining three rankings were held by Asian cities. While no American city made the top 10 list (with Boston holding 15th place), three cities proved that global sustainability is becoming increasingly dependent on the implementation of effective environmental policies in the developed cities of Asia.

Here are the sustainable cities in Asia that were successful in finding a better equilibrium in terms of development and progress:

Seoul: Ranked No. 7

Over the past 60 years, South Korea has grown from a war-torn nation to a major world power, becoming the 13th largest economy in terms GDP. This is quite impressive for a nation with a population of only 50 million. The capital and largest city, Seoul, is the product of this rapid economic growth. With over 25.6 million people living in the metropolitan area, Seoul shares the same problems as other large cities, including detrimental impact on the environment. It seemed the citizens of Seoul faced the choice between an improved quality of life and helping the environment… Or did they?

Forward-thinkers look to the idealized notion of the “ubiquitous city” in order to strive toward becoming a more sustainable city. The key to the ubiquitous city concept is technology. Seoul is a world leader in terms of digital governance and open data. This includes an extensive high-speed Internet network. In a ubiquitous city, the free flow of data allows citizens to understand their impact on the environment, as well as the best steps to take in order to reduce their negative effect. The idea is that, by improving technology infrastructure, urban residents can shape their lifestyles in an eco-friendly manner. An example of this in action is the Personal Travel Assistant system. This system delivers real-time information of the public transportation network. It allows the user to access information on carbon emissions and other green transportation options.

South Korea has taken this idea a step further by initiating a project on a huge scale,  with the purpose of building the “smart city” Songdo. This city lies near the Seoul airport and has a future projected population of 2 million. This “city on a hill” has the technology and green space to live up to this moniker. It will successfully sustain an underground system of tubes for disposing of waste, universal broadband, integrated sensor networks, and green buildings to truly make it the “city of the future.”

Songdo may soon become the benchmark that the rest of Seoul will work toward, for achieving both a high quality of living and a sustainable city.

Hong Kong: Ranked No. 8

Hong Kong rose to international prominence in the late 1970s, acting as a trading hub between China and the rest of the world. This led Hong Kong to become one of the world’s financial centers that boasts a high GDP and quality of living. This rapid growth, however, also brought about the age-old problems that go hand in hand with urbanization: pollution and environmental degradation. Hong Kong has thus taken steps to curb these negative effects.

Hong Kong has a Council for Sustainable Development, which operates the Sustainable Development Fund. This fund of $100 million is provided to act as financial support for initiatives that will promote awareness for sustainable development, as well as initiatives that encourage sustainable practices. This promotes the active involvement of the citizenry through nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. Leadership in Hong Kong seems to take the view that individual efforts and policy changes will lead to sustainable growth.

Technology has also played an important role in Hong Kong’s sustainability. Citizens of Hong Kong extensively utilize non-motorized and public transit. The Octopus Smart Card makes it easy for users to pay for public transit as well as parking. The smart card can also be used for grocery stores and vending machines. This convenience and usability makes public transit a more desirable option. There are also laws preventing certain types of personal behavior, such as spitting in public, littering, and consuming food or drinks on any public transportation.

Singapore: Ranked No. 10

Singapore has made tremendous progress since its independence in 1965. Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s first prime minister, wanted Singapore to outshine other developed countries in areas of cleanliness and efficient transport systems. Singapore’s famouschewing gum ban is one of the many successful environmentally-friendly initiatives that are enforced through the legal system. You’re even legally required to flush public toilets in Singapore. It’s interesting to note that Hong Kong is one of Singapore’s biggest admirers in terms of imposing bans and penalties on certain types of “rude” behavior.

Singapore also has something called the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, which outlines a cohesive plan of action for all citizens to follow in order to create a more sustainable city. It targets green and blue spaces, transportation, resource sustainability, air quality, drainage, and community stewardship. Much like Hong Kong and Seoul, Singapore relies on advanced technology and a robust public transportation network.

However, Singapore was able to take on a problem unique to its city — the need to import potable water from Malaysia — and turned it into an economic strength. Singaporean policies supporting innovation to solve this problem lead to over 100 companies developing a profitable niche industry in collecting rainwater and recycling water. Their technologies have spread around the globe.

Singapore not only relies on technology, but also on its own citizens. The Sustainable Singapore Blueprint emphasizes community involvement in conserving resources and preserving green spaces.

The future of urbanization

It seems that these three cities have some significant similarities:

  1. Robust and convenient public transportation
  2. Relatively recent economic growth
  3. Utilization of advanced technology
  4. High GDP per capita ($30,000+ GDP per capita)
  5. Space limitations

Space limitations may be the driving force for these advanced Asian cities and their environmentally friendly innovations. Singapore, Hong Kong and Seoul are all small areas that have space restrictions, and thus high population densities. Where in other places, people can simply spread out (see Los Angeles), these cities cannot. Singapore is a city-state; Hong Kong was historically bordered by not-so-friendly China; and the Seoul metro area is slowly taking over South Korea, with half of the country’s population, 25 million people, living in the Seoul metro. Everyone feels the need to live in these cities, even when there is a severe lack of space.

With space constraints, pollution gets worse; there is less green space, more litter and a higher demand for resources. This led these three cities to deal with the sustainability issue in similar ways, which all boil down to infrastructure. Since each city has the wealth to deal with the problem, they do, using technology to improve infrastructure. Infrastructure means more communication between citizens, better recycling efforts, better public transit, better waste disposal and better emissions management.

Image credits: 1) Songdo IBD   All others via Flickr – M.Bob & Kenny Teo

Anum Yoon is a writer who is passionate about personal finance and sustainability. As a regular contributor to the Presidio Graduate School’s blog, she often looks for ways she can incorporate money management with environmental awareness. You can read her updates on Current on Currency.

The following post comes courtesy of Sinosphere, the China blog for The New York Times.  Like a flower poking out of the cracked pavement of a concrete jungle, this is another hopeful sign that ‘The Greening of Asia” is starting to blossom.

Q & A with Author Mark Clifford on “The Greening of Asia”

By Ian Johnson from Sinosphere, May 5, 2015 3:21am

Mark Clifford & Greening of Asia post (5-5-15), photo 1

A technician at Yingli Solar checks a solar panel on a production line at the company’s headquarters in Baoding, Hebei Province. Credit Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

After 20 years in Asia as a journalist, Mark Clifford took over as executive director of the Hong Kong-based Asia Business Council in 2007. His new book, “The Greening of Asia: The Business Case for Solving Asia’s Environmental Emergency,” explores how Asian companies are making strides in providing environmental solutions. China is a special focus because of the country’s huge emissions of carbon, but also because of its potential for innovation.

Mark Clifford & Greening of Asia post (5-5-15), photo 2

Mark Clifford.Credit Courtesy of Mark Clifford

In an interview, Mr. Clifford discussed the need to link businesses, governments and nongovernmental organizations to fight climate change:

Q.:   How did you get interested in this topic?

A:     I joined the Council in 2007 and inherited an almost-finished study on green buildings. That was pretty exotic in Asia back then, and we published a book on it. It got me thinking about the topic.

Q:    Your angle is a bit more hopeful than some. Tell us how that came to be.

A:     Originally, I thought I’d do a book along the lines of “The East Is Black.” And we do have an emergency here. In China, 1.2 million a year are dying prematurely. People need to know how bad it is, but then I got to thinking that this was pretty obvious. Instead, I thought that there are these much more positive responses underway, and people should know about them. The business community, which takes challenges and solves problems, was involved. So it is unabashedly a glass-half-full book, but that’s because it’s important to know there’s a way out. We can despair, we can do nothing, or we can work to solve one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Mark Clifford & Greening of Asia post (5-5-15), photo 3

Q;   Do you see business being the main player in solving the issue?

A:    No, it’s part of the solution. There has to be a three-legged stool of government, civil society and business, and each has to bring its strengths to the table.  Only governments have the power to set rules — the laws and regulations, of course, but also the prices in the forms of taxes and subsidies as well as facilitating infrastructure developments. Media and NGOs make sure that business and government are doing what they promise.

Q:    What was most surprising is how many companies are doing this in one form or another.

A:     Yes, in the book I profile more than a dozen companies at length but also have an appendix of more than 50 companies that are involved with a variety of environmental initiatives. It was surprising to me what’s going on at the corporate level, but they’re doing things for good business reasons. Some are for the P.R. effect, but most look at it as necessary for survival.

Q:    You focused one chapter on Hong Kong’s CLP Holdings, the electric power company.

A:    Their work really sparked this project. In 2007, the then-chief executive, Andrew Brandler, announced that by mid-century, they would cut the carbon intensity of their electricity production by 75 percent. This pledge by one of Asia’s biggest private utilities — mostly coal-fired power plants — to effectively decarbonize by mid-century is unparalleled globally. I think this stems from the Kadoorie family, which owns a major stake in CLP. Michael Kadoorie challenges his top management to look at 50-year horizons. They do this for good reasons. They’re traditionally a coal-burning utility, but they think that this isn’t a good business model in 50 years.

Other companies think that water is underpriced, and in the future, it will be more realistically priced. Carbon also is underpriced, and other companies want to be ready for when it’s changed.  But not all companies have long-term visions.To reach them, you need the other two legs of the stool. You need good, strong government policy, and you need NGOs to hold people accountable.

Q:    What countries have had good policies?

A:    Singapore has done an exemplary job. They decided very early on that water is of existential threat to the nation. So they have taken very firm policies, and it gives companies a form of certainty about costs.Not every country has the capacity that Singapore’s administration has, and it’s a small place with a forward-thinking government. It’s much harder in big countries like China and India, which are more fragmented.

Q:    You have a lot on China.

A:    The good news is we have good policies coming down from the top levels of the Chinese government. Where China continues to struggle is the implementation at the ground level. There’s not always enforcement, and there’s no civil society to act as a check. The time when China decides that the environment and energy issues are as much of a threat as the color revolutions were, or the Hong Kong protests were last year, that’s when we’ll know we have serious progress. We’ve seen with Chai Jing [whose popular documentary film on the environment, “Under the Dome,” was banned] that civil society is muted.

Q:    We read a lot about air pollution, but you also think that water is crucial.

A:     Increasingly, water is a hard-stop issue. Air pollution is horrible, but most people affected by it are still living. But no one can live without water. I don’t know what people will do when the water stops. In China, projects like the South-North Water Diversion Project just delay the day of reckoning. What concerns me is that even most otherwise far-sighted governments are not facing up to the challenges.  For example, what do you do if you’re a municipal official, and you have an industry, say semi-conductors, which uses a lot of water? What do you do when you have to make a choice: water for the factory or the town? These are the kinds of choices that aren’t going to happen today or tomorrow, but governments will face this.

Q:    And yet there are signs of hope in China.

A:    China is about to overtake Germany as having the largest amount of installed solar power capability. It also has large wind turbine facilities. All of this is important because China burns half the world’s coal and accounts for 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. So to fix China, we need to cut coal use. Coal is supposed to peak in 2030, but it could happen a lot faster. So these are huge challenges, but China is potentially further ahead than many people realize.

Happy Year of the Snake!

I have some major catching up to do so let me begin here with a link to my book which the Wilson Center launched on September 24, 2012.  (Note: if you want to download the PDF of the book, just right-click and use the Save As option).

Book Cover

More 2012/3 updates to follow in rapid sequence.

Thanks for hanging in there,

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!

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.

Premise

The Fukushima disaster in March has prompted all major nuclear powers to pause and reexamine their nuclear development programs. Germany and Italy reached decisions to phase out their nuclear programs.  In the U.S., stirrings of interest in a nuclear revival were silenced.  In China, however, all indications are that a national program to establish China as a global leader in nuclear power remains on track.

 Discussion

The first commercial nuclear power plant in the U. S. was installed in 1958. Today, 104 commercial reactors produce almost 20% of the nation’s total electric generation. By comparison, China’s first nuclear plant, Qinshan, near Shanghai, became operational in 1991. Today, 13 plants are in operation supplying just over 1% of China’s total electricity. However, this freeze frame comparison misses the contrast in momentum for the nuclear industry in the two countries. Of the 52 nuclear power plants that were either under construction or in advanced planning in America and China in late 2010, months before the Fukushima disaster, 50 of those plants were being planned and built for the Chinese market.

source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

As the above chart from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows, nuclear generation has plateaued  in the U.S. and Europe but is rapidly growing  in China, India and the rest of the developing world. While active plants in the U.S. are approaching the end of their licensed lifetime without planned replacement,  new nuclear installations in China are set to increase roughly ten-fold over the next ten years.

Following 1979’s Three Mile Island incident, the experience for the U.S. nuclear industry has been new order cancellation, new construction abandonment, premature shutdown of plants or extension without plans for replacement. Although improved design and technology advances have brought about significantly improved safety performance, public opposition to nuclear power — periodically galvanized by highly publicized international incidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima and persistently bedeviled by the nuclear waste disposal problem– has kept the U.S. market virtually off-limits to new nuclear installations for three decades. China, by contrast, is the world’s most active site for new plant installations. National planning calls for nuclear power to provide 6% of China’s total electrical generation by 2020. This will require a net increase in installed capacity of 60-70 GW, comparable to the entire 63GW of currently installed nuclear capacity in France, one of the world’s most active users. By 2030, China plans to match the nuclear output currently provided by all 104 U.S. installations.

The bottom line:  Chinese authorities clearly know how to throttle back a prestige industrial development project, as shown after July’s high-speed train collision in Zhejiang Province.  After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, however, no such bureaucratic braking of China’s nuclear program has been apparent.  Additional safety reviews have been instituted, but the scale and speed of China’s nuclear program remains essentially unchanged.

 

(This piece has been reprinted from G+ Insights, a publication series of the Gerson Lehrman Group at www.gplus.com.  The G+ piece, in turn, has been adapted from Sustaining U.S.-China Cooperation in Clean Energy,  a book publication authored by Terry Cooke forthcoming from the Kissinger Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Institute in November 2011).

 

China does business a little differently than the U.S. but we track results in the same way:  the value of deals and the number of jobs created.

Hu Jintao’s State Visit from January 18-21 may have been a dog-and-pony show on a big stage but it did register some big results at the box-office.

Having worked in the trenches of the U.S.-Japan trade war in the early 1990s, I know full well that the numbers trotted out in press statements for Presidential events need to be taken with a grain of salt.  Notwithstanding, the underlying facts they describe have a reality.  Yes, there was some degree of smoke and mirrors involved in the numbers announced with the original U.S.-Japan Auto Trade Agreement in 1992.  Nonetheless,  those numbers pointed to real changes which seem commonplace today — there’s no longer a trade war with Japan, U.S. consumers have better cars, Toyota sponsors the Super Bowl, and Japan’s economy proved far less able to overtake the U.S. than many had supposed.

All of this suggests that we shouldn’t sneeze at US $50 billion in trade deals announced during the Hu Jintao State Visit.  Also, that grain of salt may perhaps be better applied to the growing perception that China owns the future.

AEP, AES, Aloca, Duke, Ener1, GE and UPC racked up more than $12.5 billion in trade, investment and project deals over the past four days.  This bodes well for the future of U.S.-China clean energy cooperation.  The guts of these seven deals show that the U.S. provides innovation and China provides a huge market.  That basically represents a fair deal for both sides.

Click here or directly on the slide thumbnail below to access the slide-master with links to full details of each of these seven deals:

Over the months ahead, I’ll be posting to the U.S.-China Clean Energy blog more reporting on U.S. cleantech firms that secured deals during the Hu Jintao State Visit (January 18-21):

This series will include coverage of:

  1. the Wanxiang-Ener1 deal to supply high-quality U.S. batteries to electric buses in China
  2. Goldwind USA’s planned expansion of U.S. production and employment
  3. a deal siting a PV manufacturing plant near a U.S. Energy Innovation Cluster (EIC) and U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC)
  4. the clean energy aspect of huge new deals by GE and Boeing.

Please check back for these.  In the meanwhile, here’s my personal view of the Arrival Ceremony for Hu Jintao:

John Smith (Chairman of Global Philadelphia Association) and  I had the honor to be asked by Mayor Nutter to attend this ceremony.
Courtesy of my iPhone, here is a mix of the music, video, and stills from that ceremony arranged in the sequence that they occurred.  Two things to watch for:
  • Just after Hu and Obama are first seen on the podium, look for the clouds of gunpowder near the foot of the Washington Monument during the 21 gun salute and
  • In the next shots, look to the right at the base of the podium and you can glimpse Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullin in the area where the rest of the Cabinet was stationed out of my camera view.

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.

Nationalism

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

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

The headline to watch during China President Hu Jintao’s  State Visit to the US later this month? His itinerary.  Rather than the standard shuffle between DC and NYC, this itinerary  includes a stop in the ‘real America’ outside of  the ‘bubbles’ of Washington DC and New York City.  For the purposes of this trip, ‘real America’ is Chicago.

This represents, of course, a polite and deft gesture of respect to the hometown of Hu’s host at the State Dinner in Washington.  But the itinerary signifies far more:  a shift in China’s outward focus from Wall Street to Main Street.

In the post-GFC landscape,  this is a tectonic tremor worth heeding.  Expect a visit to a Main Street company with Chinese ownership and lots of U.S. employees in an embattled industry sector. Expect the U.S.-China storyline in 2011 to shift in degree from currency rates and the U.S. bond market toward rates of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) and in-bound support of the U.S. job market.

For USA regions angling for Chinese FDI to support their local jobs & their regional economic development, the key to success will be aligning regional assets with US-China national level priorities  — whether in clean energy or in other strategic sectors.  Several key vectors of national/regional alignment were created this fall when the U.S. Department of Energy and other Federal agencies awarded:

  • Detroit and the University of Michigan with a U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) for Clean Energy Vehicles;
  • The University of West Virginia lead role in a consortium for a U.S.-China CERC for Clean Coal;
  • The Lawrence Berkeley Lab with a U.S.-China CERC for Building Efficiency;
  • Greater Philadelphia and Penn State University with a national Energy Innovation Hub for Building Efficiency —  the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster (GPIC) — at the Navy Yard.

The first half of the Obama Administration’s engagement with China to tackle the challenge of 21st energy took place in Washington and New York.  The next chapter will take place in Detroit, the Bay Area, Philadelphia and other regional markets around the country.  As China reinvents itself, it will partner with regions that step forward to reintroduce themselves on the global dance-floor.

It will be an awkward dance at times.  But not a dance that will pay to sit out.  The dance ticket is to tomorrow’s world.

BusinessWeek took an excellent snapshot of this moment’s step in the global pas-de-deux with its January 3, 2011 piece on “Chinese Plants Grow on U.S. Turf.”

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