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Is Chinese Manufacturing About To Go Green?

Posted By Paul Tate, June 13, 2011 at 10:51 AM, in Category: Sustainability

If you have green manufacturing ambitions, could China become your next source of innovative new ideas over the next few years?

Yes. That’s right. China. The nation that currently pollutes the global environment more than any other on the planet. Why? Because China’s latest 5 year economic plan has a critical focus on green and clean manufacturing technology for the first time in its industrial history. And when China decides something these days, it’s sensible to take notice.

While Western politicians, scientists and industrialists continue to argue about whether the ice caps really are melting faster than ever, and whose fault it was anyway, China's political elite seems to have decided that ‘green’ is the way forward for the future and that it needs to get its act together, and fast.

Announced earlier this year, a significant part of China’s 12th 5-year Plan to 2015, centres on the development of a more sustainable economic foundation for the future with a ‘clean industrial revolution’ at its core. The plan calls for:

  • energy consumption down by 16%
  • 20% of energy to come from non-fossil fuels by 2015
  • contribution of coal and oil down from 90% to 80%
  • carbon emissions (per unit of GDP) down by 17%
  • release of major pollutants down by 8-10%

Of course there’s some method in this sudden Greenness. Some cities are already getting choked up, and fears are that China could begin to run out of fossil fuels in the near future, especially given the projected economic and consumer growth in the country. But whatever the motivation, the latest Plan demands significant shifts in manufacturing focus and funding in the country in the very near future.

The plan also involves a switch of state investment focus on cleaning up its heavy manufacturing industries like steel and aluminum, and then pumping up seven emerging strategic industries: alternative energy, biotechnology, new-generation information technology, high-end equipment manufacturing, advanced materials, alternative-fuel cars and transport, and energy-saving and environmentally friendly technologies.

Clearly, these are innovation-driven, rather than the traditional volume-driven industries, and they are on the crest of the world’s new green manufacturing wave.

To help meet the new energy targets, meanwhile, there will 40GW of new nuclear capacity, new hydropower projects on the Jinsha, Yalong and Dadu Rivers totalling 120GW, over 70GW of wind power and 5GW from new solar power plants. Global energy generation suppliers are already queuing up to benefit; Swiss engineering giant ABB, for example, intends to recruit 2,000 new engineers to support R&D and service in China through a new energy management hub in the year ahead.

Of course, every executive knows that plans are easy, delivery is much tougher to do. But given the unprecedented focus of the world’s second largest nation on a stated national strategy of clean and green manufacturing innovation for the next five years, it looks like there could be lots of new opportunities, innovations and insights that could benefit manufacturers everywhere.

Does your company aim to get involved in China’s green manufacturing revolution over the next five years?

Will the country’s new emphasis on sustainability and innovation have an impact on your development and supply chains?

Will it make a difference to how you select your potential Chinese partners?

Category: Sustainability
Written by Paul Tate

Paul Tate is Research Director and Executive Editor with Frost & Sullivan's Manufacturing Leadership Council. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Council's Board of Governors, the Council's annual Critical Issues Agenda, and the Manufacturing Leadership Research Panel. Follow us on Twitter: @MfgExecutive


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