China Pursues Innovative Clean Technology

The application of environmental sciences in an effort to conserve natural resources and the environment is referred to as green technology (greentech), environmental technology (envirotech) or clean technology (cleantech). Technologies falling into these categories deal with issues such as water purification, recycling, sewage treatment, environmental remediation, solid waste disposal and renewable energy. At present, renewable energy is under the spotlight as nations try to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. Renewable energy makes use of resources that are naturally replenished, including sunlight, rain, wind, tides and geothermal heat, to generate energy for domestic and commercial use. Much research is being carried out on developing alternative fuels and energy sources to power motor vehicles in an effort to cut noxious emissions and reduce dependency on oil.

A number of clean technology summits have been held in Beijing and Shanghai in recent weeks, primarily for the purpose of attracting foreign investors to support China’s growing greentech industry. Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, attended one of these conferences, which prompted him to remark that America should wake up to the likelihood of China surpassing the United States in cultivating new clean technologies.

In what some are referring to as a “clean technology renaissance” around this vast country, the Chinese government has been actively promoting environmental policies and the public are becoming more environmentally conscious. Government initiatives include the construction of charging stations of electrically powered vehicles, massive wind farms in two locations so far and a nationwide ban on plastic bags. Moreover, Beijing recently announced an additional $1 billion to be devoted to environmental protection and related industries over the next three years. Other environment-related initiatives on a local level include restoring wildlife areas that have fallen victim to rapid expansion of human settlements, while some provinces in China are offering tax incentives to firms to stimulate cleantech research and development.

Problems to overcome include the fact that China has a weak system of protection of intellectual property rights or patents and this tends to discourage innovation as inventors are unlikely to reap the full benefits of their hard work and creativity. Also, while venture capital investing is starting to catch on, it is still difficult to obtain private funding for new ventures, which are generally considered to be risky. Nonetheless, clean technology is starting to gain momentum in China and is likely to continue to do so into the future.