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China Faces Energy Challenges

In the just concluded Boao Forum for Asia, representatives paid close attention to the challenges China faces in the future use of its limited energy resources and potential cooperative projects in the field. And importantly, all forum participants believe that China's many energy issues must be solved under the framework of sustainable development.
Many Chinese people still remember the frequent blackouts in many major cities around the country last year. But experts predict that such a phenomenon is unavoidable in the approaching power consumption peak of summer. Also last year, China's oil consumption exceeded Japan and became the second largest in the world. Meanwhile, the purchase of private cars is still on the rise, causing a new round of fuel price hikes.

Though China's peaceful rise was a hot topic at the Boao Forum for Asia, constructive criticism still abounded. Discussions on the energy problem faced by the Chinese government were an important issue tackled by the forum's participants. On the recent price hike in China, Assar Lindbeck, a professor with Institute of International Economic Studies at Stockholm University, thinks it is a good measure to save energy. In his opinion, the biggest problem for China now is how to reduce energy wasting and enhance the efficiency of energy consumption, as well as finding more long-term substitutes for the present over exploited resources like coal.

"You have to raise energy prices so much so that firms start to save the energy. If you compare Japan and China, you find that China uses much more energy per unit of output than Japan. So you have to be much more efficienct in the using of energy. And personally I'm also in favor of more nuclear energy. Solar energy and other new forms of energy are very important."

Mr. Linbeck adds the replacement of present energy resources like oil and coal could also reduce concerns of many countries towards China's rapid-growth and the consequent destruction of the environment. But how to realize such a goal of raising energy consumption efficiency and increasing the diversity of energy forms? He believes international cooperation could play a significant role.

"It's in your own interest to save energy with technology. You have to import existent technology for energy saving and for reducing pollution from energy use, and participate in international research projects for the same purpose."

The Chinese government has realized the importance of international cooperation and is seeking more and more opportunities not only in Asia-like with ASEAN and central Asian countries-but also around the world, with Russia and Central American countries. But the energy issue is of common concern to many countries, whether developing or developed. So how to avoid conflicts and obtain the most benefits during international cooperation? The Chinese government has proposed the win-win concept as a guideline. Professor Wu Jianmin, Director of China Diplomacy Institute, explains.

"It is a fact that every country needs energy, which is a common point. We share common interests. If people fight each other they can also get energy, maybe at a high price-not in terms of money, but also in terms of many other things. But if we can identify our common ground, we can develop cooperation. This is a very important approach."
(CRI April 26, 2004)

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