21st Century Shapes Up to Research Paper

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The research concerning Chinese foreign policy to date have therefore focused on the potentially destabilizing impact of China's increasing reliance on imported oil, with a number of researchers citing the South China Sea as a potential region that may experience clashes in the future based on competing claims for resources, especially oil and natural gas reserves, and the affected international actors may resort to military methods to prosecute their respective claims (Prakash & Hart 2000). Taken together, these issues hold a great deal of significance for China and by extension, the entire international community.

Overview of Study

This study used a four-chapter format to achieve the above-stated research purpose. Chapter one introduced the topic under consideration, a statement of the problem, the purpose and importance of the study. Chapter two provides a critical review of the relevant and peer-reviewed literature, and chapter three is comprised of an analysis of the data developed during the research process. Finally, chapter four provides a summary of the research and conclusions.

Chapter 2: Review of Related Literature

Current and Recent Trends in China's Reliance on Coal

According to Schmidt (2002), more than half a century ago, Chairman Mao Zedong introduced a Five-Year Plan for the Chinese economy that was founded on the Soviet model of rapid heavy industrialization. At that point in China's history, the country's economy was almost entirely agrarian based, the just a smattering of factories in the northeast that had been constructed by the Japanese during their World War II occupation; however, in the succeeding year, enormous state-owned factories were constructed that did not feature any significant pollution controls throughout the country (Schmidt 2002). In this regard, Schmidt emphasizes that, "The fuel that powered this industrial makeover -- that still powers nearly 70% of Chinese industry -- is coal, one of the country's most abundant resources and the world's dirtiest source of energy. By the 1960s, China was among the most polluted nations on earth, its rivers and groundwater fouled by industrial chemicals and the air in its cities blackened with soot" (2002:516).

Following the Five-Year Plan, the Four Modernizations framework was introduced in the 1960s which served as the foundation for transforming the country's emphasis on self-reliance to include the acceptance of foreign loans and economic interactions as methods for achieving economic development, but still on China's own terms (Montgomery & Rondinelli 1999). This framework also established the basis for even more significant market-oriented reforms that would follow during the 1970s (Montgomery & Rondinelli 1999). According to these authors, "Under the socialist market economy paradigm not only foreign loans but foreign direct investment became acceptable policies to party officials and government leaders in China" (Montgomery & Rondinelli 1999:233). It was during this period in China's recent history that the groundwork for its current energy policies would be established. In this regard, Montgomery and Rondinelli report that:

Paradigm shifts also created new perceptions among government policy makers in China of the relationships between economic development and environmental protection that helped to advance energy conservation policies. The emergence of the sustainable development paradigm during the 1980s and its culmination in the United Nations-sponsored Summit Meeting on the Environment and Development in Brazil in 1992 provided a conceptual framework for China's advocates of energy conservation and environmental protection (1999:233).

The conceptual framework that emerged at the time would have a profound effect on the rationale of environmental advisors in China concerning the country's future directions, resulting in the development of policies that focused on identifying environmentally sustainable energy practices for the early 21st century (Montgomery & Rondinelli 1999).

Notwithstanding the country's environmental problems, the results of these fundamental shifts in China's approach to economic development balanced by increasing concern over developing sustainable energy resources have been highly influential on current energy policies in China and its economic development. Indeed, the People's Republic has consistently delivered impressive economic growth over the past 30 years by delivering double-digit annual economic growth; however, much of the country remains desperately poor (Ma 2010). There are some important caveats to this impressive economic development that relate to regional differences that exist throughout the country. For instance, the Chinese government emphasizes that about 150 million of its citizens continue to live below the poverty line and it has been only relatively recently that China's per capita GDP exceeded $3,000 (Ma 2010). Indeed, while the range of high and low temperatures in China is approximately comparable to that experienced in the United States, the average consumer in China uses just 3% of the energy that used by the average American consumer, and an estimated 100 million Chinese live completely without electricity at all (Chasek 2000). Moreover, during 2009 when China's GDP officially increased by a robust 8.7%, China's National Bureau of Statistics noted that the annual per capita net income for rural households was less than $750 compared to $2,500 for urban dwellers (Ma 2010). Consequently, Ma points out that, "To the Chinese leadership, economic growth is the only way to raise living standards, bolster employment, and drag China into the modern world of the 21st century" (2010:28).

Unfortunately, China's drive for economic development and modernization has taken place during a period when demands for collective action concerning the impact of carbon emission on the earth's climate have become pronounced. In this regard, Ma reports that, "In the world's prevailing climate change narrative, human use of fossil fuels -- such as coal, fuel oil, and natural gas -- causes the release of heat-trapping greenhouse gases -- mainly carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases -- that ultimately contribute to global warming and its associated effects, including melting snow caps, rising sea levels, and extreme weather phenomena" (2010:28). Because China's economic development remains inextricably tied to coal production and use, these issues have assumed new importance and relevance as the Chinese leadership seeks alternative and more environmentally sustainable approaches to its energy needs. Although the issues are global in nature, China stands out in the international community as being one of the most significant contributors to global warming by virtue of this heavy reliance on coal. For instance, Ma emphasizes that, "As global consciousness and obsession with climate change rose, China increasingly stood out as a key culprit. Notably, coal, the key "dirty" energy that contributes to global warming, ferociously fuels China's raging economic development" (2010:28). Despite using more energy, at least for the present, the United States has taken a backseat to China in terms of the impact of energy use on the environment. In this regard, Ma adds that, "China leads the world in coal production and consumption and relies on coal for approximately 70% of its energy. As a result, China emits an enormous amount of carbon dioxide, and in 2007, it overtook the United States as the largest carbon emitter of the world" (2010:29).

To its credit, the Chinese leadership has recognized these trends and has taken steps to address them. According to Leggett, Logan and Mackey, in June 2007, China released a plan to address climate change termed the National Climate Change Program. This initiative sets forth activities that are intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as steps needed to respond to the potential effects of climate change on the country's economic development in the future. Like most other initiatives undertaken by China in recent years, this program is also ambitious and some observers suggest that the country may struggle to achieve its stated goals. For example, Leggett et al. note that, "Within the Program, perhaps most challenging is China's goal to lower energy intensity 20% by 2010. The country fell short of its annual milestones, set in energy policies, in both 2006 and 2007" (2008:3). In July 2008, Premier Wen Jiabao and the State Council cautioned that reaching the stated goals of the National Climate Change Program in its energy intensity and emission reduction goals "remained an arduous task," which may be an understatement given the concomitant goals of the initiative that include increasing renewable energy resources by 200% by 2020, expanding the Chinese nuclear power programs, closing inefficient factories, improving energy efficient of buildings and appliances, and expanding forest coverage throughout the country by one-fifth (Leggett et al. 2008).

In an attempt to achieve its stated goals of improving energy efficiency and developing alternatives to coal, the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao recently committed the country to more aggressive energy conservation policies, including a ban on government approval of any new projects by companies that failed to eliminate inefficient capacity (Bradsher 2010). In addition, the Chinese leadership emphasized that the country must continue to press for ways to achieve the objectives of its current five-year plan to improve energy efficient by a full 20%. In response to these conditions, the Chinese premier emphasizes the country's stalwart commitment to achieving these goals: "We can never break our pledge, stagger our resolution or weaken…[continue]

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