Phase 7: China
A shooting full of extremes! From the heat of Brazil into the cold of China.
On a political and economical level, these two countries are not too far from each other – both belong to the BRIC group, prognosticated to soon overtake the G8 states with regard to their combined GDP. This would mean that the West would lose its dominant role in the world's economy – and a completely new balance of economical power would arise. Both Brazil and China are experiencing annual growth rates between 5 and 10% (for comparison: EU about 2%). Where Brazil with its enormous agricultural potential is an important supplier of raw materials, China is the “workbench of the world” with ever-increasing innovations, low wages, and a gigantic amount of domestic consumption (c. 800 million of potential customers).
We feel China's power almost immediately after landing in Shanghai. A seemingly endless skyline, growing still, and quickly erasing the traditional neighbourhoods full of small Chinese houses with curved roofs from the city map. Similar to Bangladesh, there are many many people – only they leave a distinctly more systematic impression here. Everybody seems to know exactly what is to be done when and where.
Aside from this unbelievable productivity, the next thing to note is the serious pollution of the air. Within two days all members of the EA crew are coughing away. Every week a new coal power plant is being built – and you can smell it. Especially in the evening, Shanghai is under constant smog and sulphur-stench.
However, China does not consist of coal plants alone: there is hope! For instance, we visited the solar company Suntech at Wuxi. With more than 2000 employees only in the production of solar cells and modules, it is one of the world market leaders in its sector.
Are 100% renewable energies possible in China, after all? In view of the sheer size of the country, this would be a decisive step towards saving global climate – but on the streets of Shanghai you often hear people say, Europe should first show it is willing to take this step at home.
Why repeat mistakes? An exciting debate…