March 30 was the second anniversary of the finding of 16,000 diseased, dead pigs – bloated and floating in the Jiapingtang river, just 60 miles from downtown Shanghai.
Perhaps no aspect of China is more notable to those of us in the West than its environmental degradation.
The air pollution in northern China is so bad that residents can expect to die 5.5 years early. The country loses about 9 percent of gross national income each year to environmental problems.
It seems laughable, then, for me to tell you that China is in fact the world’s leader in green manufacturing.
Yet, this is true, and I am not alone in believing China will continue to lengthen its lead in green manufacturing over the next quarter century.
In a report for the World Wildlife Fund, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants write that “China is the largest clean tech country in absolute terms,” with 30 percent year-on-year sales growth.
China’s industrial firms have earned almost 105,000 “ISO 14001” certificates, which map out effective environmental management systems. The country whose businesses have the next closest number of certificates (Italy) has only 24,662. The US and Germany both have fewer than 8,000 each.
China’s governing Communist Party realizes that maintaining its grip on power now depends on solving its environmental problems to the satisfaction of the Chinese people.
When 10,000 protestors took to the streets of Heyuan in Southern China on 12 April, they weren’t demonstrating for higher wages, but against plans for the construction of a new polluting facility.
China’s government also sees green manufacturing as a way to catapult its manufacturing sector ahead of global rivals like the US and Germany, in both sophistication and profitability. This will help China keep growing and create new jobs for years into the future.
Thus, going green solves two problems for China: solving it’s environmental problems and extending its spectacular run of economic growth.
Climate change, for example, is not just a source of worry. It’s also a source of opportunity, as one official document puts it, “to speed up economic restructuring as well as the transformation of China’s mode of development and hasten forth a new industrial revolution.”
I, for one, am confident that China will manage the full-fledged transition to green development. On QualityTrade.com, we already see many of these green manufacturing companies successfully marketing themselves to customers worldwide.
China’s twelfth Five Year Plan doubles down on seven important industries: environmental protection and energy efficiency, new energy, next generation information technology, biotechnology, high-end manufacturing, clean-energy vehicles, and high-tech materials.
These aren’t just green industries, they are high-growth and high-value, too. They have huge export potential.
The Middle Kingdom is already seeing the fruits of its green industry focus. Already, six of the world’s top 10 solar panel producers are Chinese. China’s Trina Solar leads the list by some measures - with more than 14,000 employees in 14 countries around the world.
Green manufacturing also includes less sophisticated moves, such as improving the energy efficiency of factories in more traditional sectors.
Concord Ceramics has factories in Shanghai, Dong Guan and Shenzhen. Facing higher labor costs and thinner margins, General Manager Kevin Chang turned to energy efficiency to improve his bottom line.
Chang’s production line requires intensive air conditioning. The electricity to run those ACs ate up 15 per cent of his operating costs.
To reduce expenses, Chang installed a higher volume AC system. Now, he says, his electricity bills are 40 percent smaller. And, he’s on the hunt for more savings.