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Thanks to BBC, ‎2.5 million people have already enjoyed this but it DOES pack 200 years of history into 4 minutes. It also drives home the key dynamic for us all to internalize about the natural impact which China (and India) are bringing to the world today… and why ultimately it’s a very good thing. An exhilarating 4 minute ride through 2 centuries of global history and a peek around the corner to tomorrow’s world…

More about this programme:http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wgq0l Hans Rosling’s famous lectures combine enormous quantities of public data with a sport’s commentator’s style to reveal the story of the world’s past, present and future development. Now he explores stats in a way he has never done

There’s a curious disconnect in discussions about China’s ability to innovate. Yes, there’s no question that China lacks the chemistry to produce tomorrow’s Google — rigid educational system, lack of intellectual property rights protection, constricted flow of ideas, top-down control of ‘right thinking,’ etc. But what tends to get overlooked in this discussion is China’s headlong embrace of the future, the attitudinal openness to change. It perhaps took the searing experience of the Cultural Revolution to burn into the consciousness of present-day China where never to return and thereby to point the way to where to head — a modern and global future. We should be able to respect China’s focus on the future and, in doing so, avoid getting too comfortable in our present.

This article by James Allworth at at the Forum for Growth and Innovation at Harvard Business School puts this issue into clear perspective.

How the U.S. Could Avoid Being Disrupted by China by James Allworth, Harvard Business Review, 1:12 PM Tuesday December 21, 2010,

Last week, President Obama met with the CEOs of 20 of the largest corporations in the U.S. It was a widely praised meeting. But given what the President is hoping to achieve — creating sustained economic growth, which in turn leads to jobs — listening to much of what these guys have to say is the wrong approach. And asking them to start hiring misses the point. Obama is talking to the wrong people.
The U.S.’s position as a global economic leader has been based on one thing more than anything else: its ability to innovate. From Detroit to Silicon Valley, America has always been at the center of the “next big thing”. Each of the industries that have sprung up around these innovations has become an engine for America’s economic growth. Amazingly, each time as one has begun to slow down, the next one has picked up.
But this cycle is being jeopardized… [and in danger of] falling into the trap that leads to disruption — the same one that snares executives in many successful companies. Just as talented corporate leaders gradually shift their focus further and further upmarket in service of their best customers, the U.S.’s political leadership is increasingly doing that, too, by catering to the largest American companies… These are companies at their zenith. They have been through periods of exponential growth, but now they’re mature. America’s economic future is not dependent on the companies that are peaking now; the future is going to depend on the companies and industries that will peak in ten or 20 years time from now, the companies that are about to go through a period of break-out growth.
Unlike the startups that represent America’s future, the big players have an inherent bias toward protecting the status quo. They play a defensive game and face a different set of issues to their smaller brethren; fixing these issues is their priority when talking to politicians. The problem with this is that America’s economic competitiveness has always been built upon its ability to disrupt what it already has with something better. That’s a game played by smaller — not larger — companies.
Tilting the power balance in favor of large companies changes America’s winning formula. Here are just a few examples of where the big players and their undue influence in the political process have hurt America’s competitiveness, particularly relative to the U.S.’s emerging economic competitor, China:

• Big oil and big coal have stymied the growth of green energy within the U.S. Their lobbying and advertising have made it practically impossible to form political consensus. Putting aside the debate about the science, if the rest of the world believes global warming is real and is committed to stopping it, they’re going to want to get clean energy from somewhere. Right now, that’s not going to be the U.S. — it’s going to be China. What should be even more concerning to the U.S. is that while it remains too early to call, the green revolution looks like it’s going to be “the next big thing”, and the U.S. is set to miss out.

• The builders of every technical revolution — engineers — are being turned out at incredible rate in China. Compare the Chinese government’s attitude to that of the U.S. government. American politicians (at the behest of big content businesses) have tied federal funding of universities to anti-piracy efforts on campus. Do you think it makes sense to tie a country’s ability to innovate to protecting a business model that’s in the process of being disrupted?

• Intellectual property protections — frequently cited by big companies as being critical to innovation — are lacking in China. Ironically, this lack of IP is making China a more innovation-rich environment. The reason? The only protection you get in China is being able to innovate at such a rate that nobody else can catch you. Compare this to the U.S., where you create your IP and then rely on the legal system to keep your competitors at bay. This approach doesn’t work if your competitor doesn’t respect your IP laws. Further compounding the issue for America is that its current system strongly favors the big players. If a startup becomes a threat to a large company, then a common tactic is to rely on a long, drawn-out IP infringement lawsuit. Most startups don’t have the resources to fight back.

Over the past 20 years, America has gotten away with this shift in attitude, simply because it has had no competition. China changes that. The Chinese are determined to become a global hub for innovation, so America will have to compete to be the best environment in which to create the “next big thing” If the U.S. doesn’t want to lose its position and threaten its future prosperity, it’s going to need go back to its roots. The starting point is getting our political leaders to stop talking to the CEOs of large corporations and talk to entrepreneurs instead.

James Allworth is a Fellow at the Forum for Growth and Innovation at Harvard Business School.
Find the complete article at http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/12/how_the_us_could_avoid_being_d.html

Today’s industry press on the renewable energy industry in China carries an instructive piece of analysis on dynamics in the photovoltaic solar market — i.e., the ‘chips’ on solar panels that do the photovoltaic conversion from sunlight to transmission-ready electricity.

Currently, this is a boom industry in China. One city in Shandong province, Dezhou, is alone home to more than 100 PV manufacturers. When the critical supply input for this industry — polysilicon — tightened in global markets, the full statecraft apparatus of the PRC central government got into gear to assure supply for this sector, a story well described by Jason Dean, Andrew Brown and Shai Oster in a frontpage Wall Street Journal article on November 16, 2010. Since supply is being ramped up by these ‘investor euphoria’ factors and because demand is constrained by State Grid’s ability to integrate new PV-generated power into the national grid, prices are dropping. As reported by RenewableEnergyWorld.com in September 2010, “the late-August round of bids for utility-scale solar power projects in China yielded a new milestone in the economics of solar power in China: a sub-Yuan/kWh price for solar power. To achieve this impressive number, the Chinese government has used the state-owned sector (and particularly enterprises under the direct control of the central government) to help subsidize the price of solar power, to the point where the economics appear to be unsustainable.”

So, if the factors above give the background to the current moment, the analysis below shows where this situation is likely to lead in 2011 in the Chinese domestic market.

One final observation — since the Chinese PV solar panel is strongly export-oriented, the oversupply situation in China will lead to falling prices in international markets. Falling prices of imported Chinese panels will undercut the ability of U.S.-manufacturers to compete at cost and this will in turn add to the pressures on the bilateral U..S.-China bilateral relationship. The U.S. Steelworkers presented an omnibus complaint against Chinese unfair trade practices in renewable energy in September but USTR and the Obama administration chose in December to take up officially only the wind power component of that complaint.

The pressures building up in the global market for PV solar mean that the Obama administration may be under pressure in 2011 to broaden their trade action in renewables to include PV solar products.

ANALYSIS – BOOM IN CHINA’S PV INDUSTRY HARD TO CONTINUE IN 2011 – Asia Pulse (December 30, 2010)

China’s domestic photovoltaics firms have achieved remarkable performances in 2010 boosted by surging demand in domestic and overseas markets. But the boom is hard to continue in 2011 upon oversupply in domestic market and no further growth in international demand. According to statistics from Wind Info, 58 solar companies listed on China’s A-share market achieved combined net profits of 12.1 billion yuan (US$1.82 billion) in the first three quarters of 2010, up 46 per cent year on year from 8.29 billion yuan. However, high expectations on the outlook for the PV industry have attracted a good number of companies to take up the production of PV products, which is very likely to result in oversupply in 2011. Besides, international PV demand is unlikely to see further growth in 2011, therefore the boom in China’s PV industry in 2010 is unlikely to carry on into 2011.

Surging demand boosts performance of PV firms in 2010.

Since the beginning of 2010, international demand for PV products has continued to surge, growing threefold in Germany. Emerging PV markets such as Italy, the Czech Republic, and the US also stepped up construction of PV power plants. This has directly driven the demand for PV products, and led to a relatively long duration of short supply of PV products, including silicon wafers and solar cell modules, which greatly benefit domestic PV giants. Leading PV producers like Suntech, LDK Solar, and Yingli Green Energy all registered better-than-expected performances in the first three quarters of 2010. Among the 58 domestically-listed PV companies, 20 reported their net profits doubled in the first three quarters, and their sales margins increased by 5 percentage points year on year. Besides this, 23 companies have forecast increasing net profits for the whole year of 2010, and 16 of them expected over 50 per cent growth in net profits. Not only have PV producers turned in sound performances, but also have domestic PV equipment manufacturers benefited from the surging demand. Zhejiang Jinggong Science and Technology (002006.SZ), a manufacturer of polycrystalline silicon ingot production furnaces, expect net profits of 60 to 65 million yuan for 2010, up 150 to 180 per cent year on year.

Oversupply of PV products expected in 2011

China is very likely to face overcapacity and oversupply of PV products on diminishing international demand and continuous enthusiasm of domestic PV producers for capacity expansion. Zhou Yanwu, chief analyst with Research In China, said that more than 90 per cent of China’s domestic PV companies are heavily reliant on exports, and the export destinations are mainly concentrated in Europe. However, European countries, the world’s largest PV solar market, recently announced they are to cut back subsidies to PV projects. Germany has trimmed total subsidies to PV projects by 3 per cent since October. Spain is planning to cut the on-grid price of solar power-generated electricity generated by 45 per cent. The Czech Republic is also mulling over reducing its investment in a 700MW solar power plant. Solarbuzz, the PV market research specialist, believes that the policy changes will reduce demand for China’s domestic PV products, and this will take effect from the beginning of 2011. There is a consensus that China’s PV industry is not likely to maintain its fast growth in 2011. An insider with Suntech predicted that in certain periods of 2011 international PV demand may be lower than in 2010. However, despite of unfavorable changes in the solar power policies of European countries, China’s domestic PV companies are actively expanding their production capacity.

— Risen Energy (300118.SZ) on Wednesday announced that it plans to invest 800 million yuan to build a 300MW crystalline silicon production line, which will double its current production capacity.

— Shanghai Aerospace Automobile Electromechanical (SSE:600151) and Hengdian Group DMEGE Magnetics (SSZ:002056) recently announced they are to jointly invest more than 1 billion yuan to expand solar-cell production capacity.

— Leading PV producers like Suntech, Yingli, JA Solar, and LDK in China have already released their expansion plans for 2011, which all involve a 10-odd per cent increase in production capacity.

According to China’s development plan for the PV industry, China is aiming to increase PV installed capacity to 20GW by 2020. But judging by the current rate of expansion, it is likely to top 50GW by then. Meanwhile, the entire PV industry, including PV cells and PV modules, may face periodical oversupply in 2011 due to concentrated operation of newly added production capacity. According to statistics, there will be 11 solar cell producers with production capacities exceeding 1GW in 2011. A PV producer noted that China’s solar cell production capacity is expected to reach 35GW in 2011, while total international demand would not surpass 20GW. If all domestic production capacity is fully operated, there will be 50 per cent oversupply of solar cell products in 2011. In the face of a gloomy outlook for international PV demand, domestic PV companies may encounter challenges in getting a return on investment in the short term. Oversupply will force the prices of PV products to drop further in 2011.

I include some excerpts here from an interview which Energy Secretary Steven Chu just gave with Platts Energy Week television (http://www.plattsenergyweektv.com/) an independent all-energy news and talk show with ownership links to McGraw Hill.

The U.S. engine for clean energy innovation and economic growth is a four-cylinder engine but only three cylinders are firing now. Technology innovation, investment and state-level policy are all producing horsepower but federal level policy to create a long-term framework in support of technology innovation, long-term investment, and state support is seized up.

These extracts from Sec. Chu represent to my mind the best way forward and perhaps, in a time of polarized partisanship, the only way forward:


The White House, its Democratic allies and Republicans need to “look for the things that the vast majority of Americans will say, ‘This is good for me, this is good for America, this is good for my state,’ and move forward on those issues,” Chu told program host Bill Loveless. The interview, available at this link, airs in Houston tonight and was aired Sunday in Washington, D.C.

The House passed a comprehensive energy and climate-change bill last year that would have put a price on carbon emissions, but the measure died in the Senate. Nevertheless, Chu said there were other options for moving the U.S. towards a clean-energy future.

“Absent a price on carbon, what are the things you can do? Well, you can create a demand for this thing, whether it be wind or solar or any form of renewable energy [and] say, ‘This is where we are heading,'” Chu said. “These are many of the things that we as a country should wrestle with and think about.”

In the interview with Platts, Chu struck a conciliatory note, saying it wasn’t up to him to pick the policy — such as a price on carbon or low-carbon energy-use mandates — that would support renewable energy “or clean energy” projects.

“This is a discussion that has to be held with Congress, with the American people,” Chu said. “What the country really wants, and what business really wants, are those long-term signals to say, ‘This is where the country is heading.’ “

He also said there would be other opportunities for common ground with Republicans in Congress, such as retrofitting buildings and homes to cut down on energy bills.

“We are working on ways to do this so it doesn’t require massive public-sector investment, but it is private-sector investment because it is going to be saving money,” Chu said. “I think that is a common ground.”

The full article on this interview is available at http://bit.ly/eVBdWp

Dominique Doms of the International Trade Examiner shared the following observations on the recent clumsy steps in the pas-de-deux between the U.S. and China on climate change and clean energy policy coordination.  These missteps are beginning to follow a regular rhythym.  Last November, the COP15 in Denmark stumbled into acrimony when the Chinese negotiating team responded to Obama’s open hand with a pointed finger and the meeting broke up without a global framework deal to support cap-and-trade.  The approach to this November’s COP16 meeting in Mexico is already looking wobbly in light of two issues:

  1. The filing on September 9, 2010 of a trade action by the United Steelworkers against China for unfair subsidization of its renewable energy exports.  (Bearing in mind the ringside seat perspective I had on the U.S.-Japan auto trade dispute in the early 1990s, I see this move by U.S. labor on the global chessboard as natural and expected but hardly commendable.  At best, it will serve as a palliative and not a remedy).
  2. The clumsy steps China took to embargo strategic minerals essential for the manufacture of many clean energy products without official explanation.

Whatever happens in Mexico, the dance will have to go on.  As Bloomberg New Energy Finance has pointed out, the U.S. and China are effectively “joined at the hip” as a de-facto G2 burdened with the responsibility of maintaining global environmental and economic sustainability.

The ultimate remedy will be for U.S. policymakers to look into the mirror and understand that the real issue is not an either/or issue of cooperation v. competition with China, though both are inescapable facts of the matter.   The ultimate challenge is for us to realistically assess what we have and have not done to move our country into the future.  We can compare ourselves with  China but that comparison must be based on a realistic assessment of how our national systems are different and on different pathways we will need to follow to move our country forward.  Just like with Sputnik, our goal should not be to hold China’s clean energy development back, it should be to marshall our resources to move our country’s clean energy development forward.  In the final analysis, the U.S. and China will need to be partners in this global effort but that global partnership — in order to be effective — must be based on maximum effort by each of the partners as well as on a respectful and realistic understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each partners system.  tc

Beginning of Dominique Doms comment:

“Clean and renewable energy production has become a new dispute between the US and China and centers around Chinese subsidies that unfairly give an advantage to local companies and price US producers out of the market.  Stephen Chu, US Energy Secretary, told the international press that the US government welcomes Chinese green companies but that there has to be a level playing field for US companies as well.

At the center of the dispute are large subsidies to Chinese manufacturers of solar panels and wind turbines that allow them to gain an unfair and competitive advantage over US companies that are not entitled to the same government stimulus.  The US is requesting from China, through the World Trade Organization, that US companies that manufacture green energy components have access to the same stimulus funds as their Chinese owned counterparts.  It is expected that China will ultimately reach an agreement with the US as both countries believe that government subsidies are a key factor in the development and manufacturing of green and renewable energy sources.

The goal of both countries is to further reduce carbon emissions to halt global warming by lowering global pollution.  China holds an advantage over the US as the largest manufacturer of solar panels. The edge in the global market with a very high demand for renewable energy sources is the direct result of China’s near monopoly of the rare earth minerals market.

China controls 93% of the RE market both in raw materials as well as its alloys that are used in solar panel reflection mirrors.  The US has reopened some of its RE mines again after having been absent in the market for 20 years. That alone may not be sufficient to close the competitive gap with China but subsidies to American producers may result in a better pricing balance.

Discussions between Mr. Chu and his Chinese counterparts have been ongoing since the opening of the US-China Clean Energy Research Center last week.

The center is the largest research center of its kind where scientists from both countries will jointly develop green and renewable technologies.  A permanent agreement may be reached prior to the COP-16 meeting to be held in Mexico from November 29 through December 10.”

(end of Dominique Doms comment)

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