China’s Precarious Energy vs Pollution Situation: Target Shortfalls and Wishful Thinking?

Energy squeeze and energy-infrastructure expense, not to mention (more recent) pressures from within and without to bring down atmospheric pollution strangling China’s major cities, have for the last several years started to cut into economic growth as well as political legitimacy. How to (or even can?…) the two be reconciled and at what cost to the mantra of high growth, upon which so much has been staked since the ’80s, has become a permanent undertow issue, as should be evident from the endless stream of energy and pollution “side-effect” control rulings that now pours (and re-pours) from the new regulatory summit, the National Development and Reform Commission (hereafter NDRC, fagaiwei. ) since 2003 when its consolidation of central economic power(s) was finalized.

Something like a flashpoint in the regulatory nexus was reached during the end-Dec. 2012 crisis over urban air quality, coming at the transition between Plan 11 and Plan 12. An event (since become background noise) that literally “brought home” (to the capital) the non-carbon garbage that had for some many years been spewed and parked “somewhere else” (as CO^2 still can be). The brake on growth was no longer invisible or intangible: “netizens” could see and cough it, and “underage-expectancy” deaths began to be reported in the multiple ‘000s per year. may not be alone responsible for economic deceleration (see below) but it surely exacerbated it. A new stress-point has been added to planning and achievement reports: gains in efficiency of overall energy use and in the generation of electric power. (Table 1, Lines 10-11). The startling plunge after 2012 Q 1’s 8.9 YOY gain surely has a lot to do with resource expenditure tightening however much it also reflects “lower property investment, dwindling credit growth and weakening industrial production” – though the two are not anywhere presented in tandem.

Figs 1-2 .1 Declining Growth Trend – Seeking a New Mean +/- 7.0%



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