Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tom Friedman on Green China


Just read Friedman's column today on China's growing embrace of renewable power. Particularly relevant after today's excellent presentation.

He writes about Shi Zhengrong, now the 9th richest man in China ($1.43 billion according to Fortune) who got there by making photovoltaic solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity. Friedman makes all of his usual points (not that I don't agree with virtually all of them) about how Shi's international success (at least a measure of it) is a glaring result of failure by Washington to impose tougher energy-standards on Detroit (which had it been done ten years ago may have saved the American auto industry) and promote alternative energy in other ways.

More than that, though, I found it interesting because of how it touched upon our discussion. That is, this Shi's fellow seems a product of China's unique set of economic policies. Low wages. Little in the way of labor standards. Heavy government subsidies to open his factories. Tougher energy regulations (though poorly enforced) than America's. Combined with China's energy crunch, Shi's success is likely not to be unique or to wane.

If renewable energy is indeed, as Friedman believes, the "growth industry of the 21st century," America will have to find a way to duplicate it ... either via market forces, government action, or some combination.

Incidentally, shares for Shi's Suntech Power went up 4% on the NYSE today after this column ran. The Friedman bump might just be as big as the Colbert bump

1 comment:

The Geriatric Three said...

Fascinating, but I can't help but feel like China is merely window-dressing. Communists/Authoritarians have little incentive to actually improve the environment; a quick scan of the rate at which China is rolling out new cars tells you more than a single venture capitalist's PR stunt. China's air quality sucks because of the number of low-quality cars that may be cheap but sure aren't clean and China's water sucks because of dumps, spills, and a lack of incentive to keep it clean. Despite glacial-speed reforms, I don't see any indicators to suggest China cares/has the capacity to do something like this. Green is cute, hip, and flashy in the West, but Red is still the only color of consequence in the Worker's Paradise.