China has turned from the world’s largest factory into the world’s biggest market. Although it had been developing its Environmental Protection Laws since the late 70ies enforcement and penalization of violations only recently matured to effectiveness. Particularly in areas of dense population, now able to file suits against polluters.
When I built my first factory in China in 1992, as a foreign enterprise we had been closely monitored on all effluents and air emissions. But lack of local availability for implementing appropriate Technology at such time showed that this had not been the common standard then. China’s strive for efficiency in those days strove to maximize speed of realization and paid little attention to resource efficiencies. China became the world’s largest factory because industrialized countries had refused to make necessary investments in increasing productivity and comply with their Environmental Protection Laws coming into force. So the time window for China to take over the manufacturing jobs was quite limited. Everything had to be up and running in a shorter time than a modernization of original manufacturing locations would have taken. So China’s economic success, levering millions of people out of poverty relied on a battle against time. For example when our factory’s grid connection was not ready on time we just put up diesel generators to produce it ourselves – something almost everybody did in those times, giving an example of how this time pressure turned hostile against Nature.
The old economies took the pleasure of getting less expensive goods imported and degenerated their own manufacturing sectors. Some said it to be an indicator of how highly developed an economy was when its service sectors became multiples of the manufacturing sector. As an SME this globalization had quite been a stress to us, but having been a TIER3 supplier to many industries that offshored, we had to localize their supply or die in the sector. Currently we see a similar trend within Greater China’s industry repeating these phenomena by going west, also an aspect of the Belt & Road agenda for Greater Asia. For those Foreign Entities already in Asia perhaps an opportunity to help their Chinese partners to become international. But for those countries in desperate need for economic prosperity a huge temptation to let pollute first and clean up later again.
Most European “Clean Technologies” require societies to pay extra for its use. Although these new industry sectors have a positive effect on the regional macroeconomics, in a globalized economy not all participants may follow the same “noblesse”. But the poorer or the less social secured a society, the more its people must care about efficiency of their buying power, enabling their regional economy to grow and enhance prosperity. China’s pride about its economic rise by adopting western solutions and maturing them through cumulated application experience within its territory being the biggest market may sometimes be tempting to repeat these role models from the past into the future. But if resource efficiency is neglected, economy will suffer. Only when the biggest application owners will take the courage to genuinely innovate towards solving their challenges most efficiently, the world can be saved from freezing economies and growing disparities. Only if the principles of Efficiency postulated by China’s modern urbanization pioneer Yuan Geng will extend from the time focus into all resource dimensions, particularly Carbon Efficiency, purchase power will remain efficient enough to enable global prosperity. So the race is up for overall efficiency in terms of People – Planet – Profit solutions rather than Public – Private – Partnership socialization of uncovered cost overruns, stealing from the poor for small elites reluctant to innovate.