China Leads the Way (Down and Up)

From reading Betty’s entries here and here, you should know by now that Taylor Studios would like to get a foothold in the Chinese market. Betty traveled there twice last year and made a lot of great connections. She also did some sightseeing and got a feel for the way this market works. Since she’s got the MBA, I’ll leave the money talk to her. What I’d like to do is describe the fascinating mixed bag that is China’s environmental policy.

China is undergoing a massive construction boom, and it has a huge appetite for energy. The middle class is growing rapidly, and car sales are increasing every year. All this growth has had large environmental impacts, with a potent symbol of these being the dangerous smog that gripped Beijing this month. The weather and Beijing’s geographic location had conspired to trap dangerous levels of air pollutants in a thick blanket over the city. Lax vehicle emissions standards and massive traffic levels definitely contributed to the haze. Citizens were suffering from severe breathing problems, and air purifiers and breathing masks had vanished from stores.

AP Photo

China gets most of its energy in coal-fired power plants and has plans to build at least 100 more to meet the insatiable demand. These plants and the city’s many factories have none of the smokestack scrubbers mandated here in the US, which adds tons of pollutants to the air.

The country has massive problems, but it also has big plans to solve them. China leads the world in investing in renewable energy like wind and solar energy projects. It is also leading the way in developing a viable, thorium-based nuclear power plant, a task I blogged about last year. Among two of its grand schemes are planned eco-cities, new developments alongside existing cities that will be models of sustainability. Chengdu Tianfu District Great City and Tianjin Eco-city are designed communities that will be “environmentally-friendly and resource efficient”. By keeping working and living spaces close to each other, residents will have the option of walking or biking to work or the store. Pedestrians will have the right of way and parks will run throughout the developments. Both designs will use solar and wind power, as well as geothermal when possible.

Designer rendering of Tianjin Eco-city

The Tianjin project’s construction has already begun on what had been a toxic industrial wasteland. The Tianfu design is considered a satellite project that could be built just about anywhere. With the rapid urban expansion China is experiencing, I truly hope these cities will be successful and that these concepts will have lasting effects upon Chinese urban planning.

Despite the many sustainability problems China has suffered, there are people and organizations that see a much greener future for the nation. As Taylor Studios enters this fascinating market, we look forward to offering our Chinese clients the greener options we build into our exhibits here. What Chinese green initiatives have you heard about?