22. The 2009 Bridges China Dialogue : China and Global Sustainable Recovery: Trade, Energy Conservation and Low-carbon Initiatives, October 26–28, 2009, Geneva
The world no longer has just one indispensable nation. Along with the United States, China will be at the centre of any lasting solution to the globe's two most pressing economic concerns: recovering from the worst financial crisis since the 1930s and containing climate change.
Whatever growth the world economy sees this year will come primarily from China. A flood of cheap loans from state-owned banks and a massive, four trillion yuan (US$586 billion) fiscal stimulus package have seen China maintain robust growth rates while the world's other major economies have been shrinking. But much of this growth has come from massive investments in infrastructure. Spending by Chinese consumers is not outpacing the expansion of the economy as a whole, while demand for China's exports remains weak. Putting global financial balances on an even keel will require people in surplus economies like Japan, Germany, and China to spend more, while Americans extend their crisis-induced uptick in saving.
Meanwhile, China has overtaken the United States to become the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Growing emissions in countries like China and India have contributed to the polarisation of international climate negotiations ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit in December. Developed countries point out, not without reason, that global efforts to limit greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere will fail if emissions growth by emerging economies continues unabated. China and others counter, also correctly, that rich countries have far higher per capita emissions, are responsible for the vast majority of accumulated GHG emissions resulting from human activity, and thus should accept far steeper cuts while forking over more money and technology to help poorer countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.
China has taken steps to address both problems. Beijing has ramped up social spending, notably on healthcare, in an attempt to ease consumers' anxieties about needing to save up for potential future health-related expenditures. The government is moving to blunt the steep upward trajectory of the country's greenhouse gas emissions, with policies for increasing energy efficiency and the proportion of electricity coming from clean sources. Some US$67 billion of the current stimulus package has been targeted at sustainable energy. A larger US$440 billion plan solely devoted to green energy is under consideration. China has already emerged as a world leader in solar and wind energy technology and production. China-based Suntech Power, for instance, recently became the world's largest manufacturer of solar modules.
But serious challenges remain. Will China's economic recovery be durable? Is the massive infrastructure investment poised to lock in carbon-intensive production? How can China use the crisis as an opportunity to transform its institutional and industrial structure to support a cleaner, greener future? Can Chinese businesses move up the value chain?
The policies China pursues will have dramatic ramifications, whether for businesses seeking growth opportunities or for developing countries pursuing their own industrialization.
The 2009 Bridges China Dialogue: China and Global Sustainable Recovery will bring together
experts from government, business, academia and civil society for an in-depth examination of China's market and policy dynamics. Top policy-makers will analyse China's place in the rapidly evolving patchwork of institutions for global governance; business leaders will highlight opportunities for investment and co-operation. The conference will be held at the World Meteorological Organisation in Geneva from 26-28 October.
The keynote speaker will be Yutai Zhang, minister and president of the powerful State Council's Development Research Centre, who will highlight the lessons China has drawn from the global financial crisis, as well as the sustainability implications of Beijing's policy response.
For information on panels, speakers and attendance, please visit www.bridges-china.com