Author: Carol

The Energy Transition in China

The Energy Transition in China

Eight reasons to be scared of China – by John Pritchard, Professor of Political Science, University of Aberdeen

Beijing has more than one hundred cities with a population of more than a million, all of which would be under Beijing’s control were the country to decide to become the world’s single super-power. If China became the world’s largest economy, the world’s largest power and were able to use its military to bully its neighbours as China has proved to be capable of doing – it would be a threat to the peaceful international order. Just as Britain, for instance, fears a rise of Japan in the century after 1945, so too can China become an economic and military superpower.

The Chinese are on course to overtake the US as the world’s largest economy by 2018 and have become a leading force in global energy markets. They now make up some 15% of all global energy supply and are becoming ever more reliant on coal and gas, an increasingly high cost source of energy. The costs of fossil fuels have soared in China and are projected to double by the end of the century (see chart 1 and p.24 of this report).

The energy transition, which may be the biggest challenge facing China, is already affecting the livelihoods and quality of life in many Chinese cities, including Beijing. It has become clear that the main energy transition can best be described as “the decline of Beijing”. Beijing’s population growth of 14.7 million in the mid 2000 years, has been reduced by as much as half. The population of Beijing has fallen from a projected 50.4 million in the late 1990s to 19.9 million today. The largest urban centre in China, Beijing, now has about the population of San Francisco or Los Angeles.

In the 1950s, Beijing was one of the world’s fastest growing cities. By 1990, it was already struggling to keep its head above water and was suffering from a severe property shortage (see p.5 and p.8 of this report). Beijing’s population is smaller now than it was during the war of

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