China has been discussed negatively in the western media recently, as is customary. It’s amazing how the consensus in Washington and Europe differs from China’s reality. With Pelosis’ visit to Taiwan, the first such trip by a senior American representative in in 25 years, the US is aggressively provoking responses from China at the moment. China has taken a number of actions, one of which is the termination of climate negotiations with the US. This move is being portrayed as the termination of all climate negotiations and the halting of climate action, neither of which is even remotely true.
I was inspired to consider this by the infographic from Visual Capitalist that serves as the article’s header. It had been posted on LinkedIn by Matt Damasceno , an engineer and expert in automotive electrification who has long worked in the refueling of vehicles. So here’s a brief tour through some noteworthy parallels.
TRANSPORTATION DECARBONIZATION China currently has a GDP per capita that is one-sixth that of the US, which means that if price were a factor, China should be purchasing, if anything, fewer new EVs. Instead, China is currently purchasing 6 times as many EVs annually as the US.
Since 2007, China has developed 25,000 miles of high-speed electrified passenger and freight train that can run at 220 mph for passengers and 80 mph for freight. It is now extending its network to neighboring nations like Vietnam. The number of miles of electrified rail in the US has decreased since its peak in the 1930s, and no high-speed rail has been installed there.
China’s cities and towns have about 500,000 electric buses, while the main cities have almost entirely electric freight and garbage trucks. The number of buses in the US may be getting close to 1,500, and the first electrified city and freight vehicles are only now beginning to arrive.
Electricity decarbonization With 53 GW of solar and 48 GW of wind energy installed in 2021, China built as much renewable energy as the rest of the world combined, and its extremely ambitious 2030 ambitions are expected to be met by 2026. In 2021, the US installed 25 GW of wind and solar energy combined.
China is now building more than 50 GW of pumped hydropower capacity, just turned on a 3.6 GW project this year, and has much more solidly planned. No pumped hydro is being built in the US, and none has been approved or given funding.
In 2021, China’s Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric infrastructure in the world, was activated. With 57 dams dismantled in 2021 alone, the United States is a global leader in this field.
China installed 17 GW of offshore wind in 2021, more than the rest of the world combined. In 2021, the US did not construct any offshore wind farms, and the two that are now operational have a combined capacity of 42 MW, or around 0.25% of China’s deployment.
More nuclear power reactors are being built in China than in the rest of the world combined. The majority of the fleet is approaching the end of its normal life by 2035, barring a massive and expensive renovation, which would result in a net loss of nuclear power plants in the United States.
China is building an Asian Supergrid to connect its neighboring nations into a continent-scale grid with 4 billion people in it, has seriously considered building a transpolar HVDC supergrid to connect all northern continents, and has built approximately 21,000 miles of high-voltage direct current transmission since 2009 to bring renewable electricity from sites across its vast country to demand centers. Due to its inability to construct new transmission, the US recently blocked an HVDC connection from Canada that would have brought more low-carbon hydro from Quebec to New York. As a result, it is now forced to futilely try to repurpose existing transmission from tiny coal-burning towns with hydrogen storage and small nuclear plants.
DECARBONIZING TECHNOLOGIES MANUFACTURING About half of the world’s electric bicycles are produced in China, which also produces a significant portion of the world’s electric scooters and other personal electric vehicles. China also produces considerably more electric bicycle variants than any other country and has the majority of brands. With a small number of somewhat pricey manufacturers, the US has primarily purchased electric mountain bikes and leisure cycles.
China is home to 6/10 of the world’s largest solar panel producers, including 3 of the top 5, and 7/10 of the world’s largest producers of wind turbines. The US is only represented by GE on the list for wind energy, which is continuing to fall down the ranks, while it appears in sixth and tenth position for solar.
With a 72% market share in battery materials, China refines most of the essential metals for batteries, including lithium and nickel. 8.5% of this market is controlled by the US, yet hardly any lithium gets refined.
CO2 EXHAUSTIONS China currently operates a carbon emissions market that is three times larger than Europe’s. Despite a lack of national leadership, 11 states participate in a carbon and trade program in the United States, and Manchin’s anti-Chinese protectionist bill masquerading as a carbon border adjustment that would have included domestic emissions is politically dead.
Years ahead of schedule, China is on track to meet its (albeit modest) 2030 Paris Accord commitments. If adopted, the US law would fulfill almost 50% of the goals set forth in the 2030 Paris Accord.
China’s annual CO2 emissions per capita are 8.2 tons, and due to the country’s increasing electrification and deployment of decarbonized power, they will reach their peak no later than 2030. The US emits 13.7 tons of CO2 per capita annually and is unlikely to ever fall below China’s level.
A net 40 billion trees have been planted in China since 1990, spanning an area greater than France. Despite being a much larger country in terms of land area, the US has grown the forest coverage by 0.0016% of that amount since 1990.
Analysts regard China’s solid plans to establish a net zero economy by 2060 and a cap on carbon emissions by 2030 to be in compliance with global warming requirements. China is on course to meet these goals earlier than expected, continuously underpromising and exceeding expectations. Although the US has stated climate goals, it repeatedly overpromises and underdelivers, and is seen by outside observers of its political landscape as being considerably less likely to stick to its course.
INNOVATION AND EDUCATION The literacy rate in China is 96.8%. The US has an 88% literacy rate.
By 2025, China will have twice as many STEM PhDs as the US thanks to its annual production of over 50,000 STEM PhDs. About 33,000 STEM PhDs are awarded annually in the US, while the number of PhD candidates is increasing far more slowly.
Each year, Chinese individuals and businesses file 1.3 million patents. Approximately 0.6 million patent applications are submitted annually by US people and businesses.
ECONOMY China has been investing in infrastructure, healthcare, and education, and its GDP is expected to be the greatest in the world by 2035 or thereabouts. Since the US has not made any investments in healthcare, education, or infrastructure during the past four decades, it is experiencing a decline in life expectancy, declining educational outcomes, and crumbling infrastructure.
85% of central bank reserve managers either hold or aim to hold the Chinese yuan as a worldwide reserve and trading currency. Since 2000, the US dollar has been losing its status as a reserve currency, a trend that has recently accelerated due to its use of the currency as a diplomatic weapon (a better alternative to military action, but one with long-term strategic repercussions). Up until this point, the US was able to cut taxes for the wealthy and spend excessively on the military without suffering serious economic repercussions.
Despite the fact that China has over 120 million passport-holding residents, its net immigration has been stable for years. Nearly half of the Fortune 500 companies in the US were created by immigrants or their offspring, while only approximately 110 million Americans currently hold passports. Since 2015, the net immigration to the US has been declining.
Since 1980, China has lifted 850 million people out of poverty. Since 1980, 80% of Americans have suffered a fall in their actual income.
GEOPOLITICS China ratified and continued to participate in the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Accord, and the Kigali Amendment, which addresses refrigerants having a high global warming potential. The US pulled out of the Paris Accord and the Kyoto Protocol, the midterm elections in November may put an end to any climate action, and the US is certain to withdraw from the major international climate agreements once more if a Republican is elected president in 2024.
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its replacement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the BRICS-focused New Development Bank, and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank have all benefited from China’s contributions. The US has begun trade wars, implemented protectionist trade policies, and pulled out of significant trade agreements like the TPP.
Over the past 15 years, China has had extensive trade and joint tourism with Taiwan, an island 110 miles off its coast. Senior government officials have not visited Cuba, an island 140 miles off the US coast, even during times of intensely elevated geopolitical tensions, and China does not sell weapons to Cuba. The US continues to impose an economic and travel embargo on Cuba, prohibiting any US businesses from doing business there. In addition, the US sells significant quantities of weapons to Taiwan and recently sent its third-ranking official there while war raged in the Ukraine and geopolitical tensions were at an all-time high.
The US maintains 750 military installations abroad, spends more on its armed forces than the next nine nations put together, and currently invests 3.8% of the greatest GDP in the world in both offensive and defensive technologies. Spending less than 1.8% of its GDP on the military, which includes the 60,000 soldiers it recently dispatched for tree planting, China maintains three international military facilities.
139 nations have signed on to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and China is giving governments low-interest loans to build and own wind, solar, storage, transmission, and rail projects all around the world. The US gave up trying to stop the Belt and Road Initiative and intimidate nations into staying out with almost no success. It also failed to sell a Central American HVDC spine to South America domestically to show that it could take part in initiatives on the same scale as the Belt and Road Initiative.
However, the narrative that Americans and many Europeans share about China and themselves is not in line with observable reality, and the US is in grave economic danger even as the rest of the world improves. This is not to say that there aren’t things that China should be criticized and held accountable for, that every country shouldn’t have clearsighted China strategies—far from it, many seem to—and that the US certainly doesn’t.
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