Is China Going Green?

Keith Bradsher, winner of the 2010 Osborn Elliott Prize, speaking at the Asia Society in New York on June 1, 2010. (Elsa Ruiz/Asia Society)

NEW YORK, June 1, 2010 — "Is China going green?" According to Keith Bradsher, of The New York Times, "the more meaningful question is... is China trying to dominate the full range of clean energy technologies? And on that, I think you can say... they are showing considerable success."

Bradsher made the remarks after winning the 2010 Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Journalism on Asia for a series of stories examining China's role in developing and promoting green technologies.

Through a dozen front-page articles, Bradsher revealed how China, one of the world's largest polluters, has also begun to develop some of the world's most advanced solutions to global warming and has pursued them aggressively.

This year's "Oz Prize" winner said last year China became the largest producer of wind turbines and this year it shows even faster growth. "If you look at solar energy—last year China was the world's number one manufacturer— and they will build more nuclear power plants in the next ten years then all the rest of the world combined."

The reason this is important is because "China is practically the whole story when it comes to greenhouse gases" according to Bradsher, the Times Hong Kong bureau chief, who says things are still getting much worse than better.

He said, China's emission are growing twice as fast as the economy and they are putting up more coal fired plants. However, they are beginning to address the efficiency issues by imposing a national electricity tax to pay for renewable energy. Wind and solar are still more expensive than coal "but the costs are really coming down in a hurry."

Bradsher said "the Chinese do not care in a top level way about global warming" but they are interested in energy issues because they see it as a way to make profits, especially in terms of exports, and they are extremely worried about access to energy in terms of security.

Later, in conversation with Asia Society's Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations, Orville Schell asked, "so what are the implications for the US?"

Bradsher said the good news is that the cost of renewable energy is coming down but the bad news is that, in the future, it is going to be provided to a large extent by the Chinese market.

Audio excerpt: Keith Bradsher discusses China's moves into clean energy (5 min., 14 sec.)

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Reported by Jennifer Mattson, Managing Editor, Asia Society Online