Andrew S. Erickson (Professor of Strategy at the U.S. Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute and a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies) and Gabriel Collins (Baker Botts Fellow in Energy and Environmental Regulatory Affairs at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.) published an article, “Competition with China Can Save the Planet”, in Foreign Affairs, May/June, 2021, a topic of uttermost importance while the world is increasingly experiencing the power and damage of climate change doing to the Earth planet. The two scholars’ credentials and the promising implication of the title of their FA article caught many people’s attention with positive comments and broad circulation of its content. Indeed, climate change, despite of ‘disbelieving’ counter arguments and slow reactions to its damage to our planet from most developed and developing nations, has finally got its rightful voice in the world media. The world is glad to see the most serious contributors to the climate change problem on carbon emission and various pollution, China making solemn pledge with goals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, the U.S. reversing her climate change policy to re-embrace the serious issue even willing to cooperate with China, the EU remaining firm on her effort to control climate change and Japan being under world media pressure to keep using nuclear energy but improving in safety measures and restraining in disposing radiation contaminated water into the ocean.
As expected, the world’s most focused attention is on the U.S. and China, because they are not only the largest energy user but also the main producer in carbon emission and other environment-polluting waste. China currently gets 65% of her electricity from burning coal and U.S. 24%, but their total coal consumption is of great concern especially from U.S. per capita consumption point of view. (Note: China’s electricity usage is largely for manufacturing the goods for the world.).This author agrees with the implication of Erickson and Collins’ paper title believing competition (with a good objective and goal) is a good thing for the planet. Humans can achieve better and more marvels under competition. However, after reading through Erickson-Collins article, I am disappointed simply because its content never focused on that implication, rather it is dwelling on a ‘bad marriage story’ regarding the U.S. - China cooperation in climate change. First, the two scholars predict a failure from the U.S. - China cooperation on climate change with no convincing argument and offer a conclusion - Competition with China Can Save the Planet. They selectively disbelieve China’s pledge of reaching carbon neutrality by 2060 as a smokescreen with bad intention but giving no convincing supportive facts. Checking historical facts shows that China is more honorable than most big nations when comes to pledges and commitments, from using nuclear weapon, following UN rules and regulations, lifting poverty, dealing with pandemic, protecting environment, and rare animals and organic plants, …The two scholars also selectively spin the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson of China, Zhao Li-Juan’s remarks into a negative argument against China’s seriousness about cooperating with the U.S. on climate change. Zhao said climate change “is closely linked with bilateral relations as a whole.” In other words, China will not compartmentalize climate cooperation if the U.S. maintains a hostile anti-China relation. How can the scholars naively believe that a couple is in court for a divorce proceeding still can cook and share a meal together in the kitchen? It is disappointing that Erickson-Collins article does not match its title by describing how to compete to save the planet rather it takes an ideological position of Biden’s Administration advocating formation of alliance against China and pressure China into unilateral submission. That ‘alliance against China’ advocation by Erickson and Collins has no foundation in climate change science or energy issue, not even in security issue.
This author does believe competition in an Olympic spirit is a good thing for the U.S. and China, not only on climate change, energy, economy, technology, … but also on national security and world prosperity. Hence, this column is entitled, ‘Competition between the U.S. and China Can Save the World’. First of all, it is naive to think different countries will have a common agreement on various issues ranging from climate change, commerce, economy, energy, food, military, security, space, technology, etc., all united against China for the interest of the U.S. For the U.S. to form a large enough alliance against China on multiple domains is neither logical nor feasible. China maintains a solid trade relationship with 130 countries and is a low-cost factory of goods for the world (nearly 60%). Why would the world destroy such a factory to harm itself? Especially, the China factory is constantly improving in efficiency and pledging to increase renewable energy usage and to reduce carbon emission? Secondly, let’s look at China’s track record of keeping her promises not only for efficiency and upgrading her technology but also for lifting poverty, creating middle income population and developing renewable and clean energy and conserving environment. China is leading in solar and wind energy, even in the forefront of fusion energy. China has created more hydro-power plants than any other country in order to lower coal burning and converted more deserts into farm and forestry land for environmental reason and food and agriculture production. China has caught up and surpassed the Internet Revolution (in terms of Internet of things and infrastructure/applications). China has entered space research and development, not only single-handedly launched her own space station, landed on the Moon and Mars but also completed her own Beidou geopositioning system particularly useful for ocean navigation and communication. Yes, some of the countries including the U.S. are feeling threatened or pressured, but it is like the Olympic Games, China only entered the games after the PRC Olympic Committee was recognized in 1979, but she has risen to be a top contender for the Olympic medals in the 21st century. Of course, there is pressure on all athletes in the world, but in fair competitions, world records are shattered and new goals are achieved by human, regardless of races or geographic origins. It should be the same in climate change or any other domain, a healthy competition is a good thing, and ultimately, it will save the world. Some may point out that the semiconductor technology sanction the U.S. is waging against China is hurting China manufacturing.
Some may even believe that such sanction may be the throat choke eventually suffocating China to death. The author does not wish that to happen nor believe it will happen for a simple logic reason: If China is choked to collapse, the world is not going to stand in a better state, more likely choked to suffocation as well. Judging on the track record of past three to four decades, China may just be able to develop and complete a totally self-sustained semiconductor technology supply chain in a few years by herself. Furthermore, there may be a good possibility that China will succeed in a new 2-D material breakthrough such as graphene revolution to replace the silicon technology for faster and more power-efficient electronic devices, for electric vehicle, AI, smart phone and computer, etc. In either case, the world will get a huge set back because of the delay or disruption. On the other hand, if the U.S. and China compete in Olympic spirit, more solutions can be developed and shared for human benefits. The world will be saved from its problems, climate change, hunger, environment, economy, ….