As the world's second-largest economy, China surely matters a lot to international efforts to avoid a double-dip recession.
However, in addition to fundamental reforms debt-laden rich countries require for the global recovery to thrive, China needs to rapidly transform its model to pursue greener and more sustainable growth.
The latest call by Premier Wen Jiabao for local governments to be aware of the "extreme significance and urgency" of the task of energy conservation and emissions reduction was thus more than necessary.
China met its target to cut energy intensity, or units of energy used per unit of GDP, by nearly 20 percent from 2006 to 2010. It had nonetheless managed to register average annual economic growth of 11.2 percent with a yearly rise in energy consumption of only 6.6 percent in the five years.
However, the authorities realize that the situation remains serious. The country's huge and growing appetite for energy means higher efficiency is badly needed not only to enhance energy security but also to help the world to deal with climate change.
Hence, the country aims to reduce energy intensity by 16 percent by 2015 while slashing 17 percent from the 2010 level of carbon dioxide emissions by 2015.
To this end, the government has promised to promote reform of resource and environmental taxes and curb exports of products that are made at the cost of high energy consumption and pollution.
Yet, as economic growth in the US and Europe has recently stuttered, dampening prospects for global growth, the world has more than ever looked to China to help it avoid a new global recession.
Domestically, it is also natural that local governments should put fast growth at the top of their development agenda.
No national statistics are available now on the latest progress of energy conservation and emissions reduction. But the 6.17 percent rise in NOx emissions in the first half of this year revealed by the minister for environmental protection does not bode well for the broader picture.
If the emission of such a key industrial pollutant can reverse a long-term trend to actually increase, it is likely that similar efforts to reduce carbon emissions may have also suffered a setback.
And that is why the central authorities must now urge local governments to step up efforts in energy conservation and emissions reduction.
Fast growth may be needed to cushion local economies against the many difficulties and uncertainties that the global slowdown has brought about. But the lesson that China should learn from the current global crisis is that it can no longer pursue investment-and-export-led growth at any cost.
To assume its role as a vital source of global growth, China must attach more importance not to the speed but to the sustainability of its economic growth.