wagner23_ Yan YichengVCG via Getty Images_ev china Yan Yicheng/VCG via Getty Images

How China Can Save the World – and Itself

With China’s economic growth slowing at the same time that its emissions continue to rise, it is clear that its carbon-intensive investment model has run its course. Chinese leaders urgently need to follow advanced economies in shifting toward greater domestic consumption and reduced energy demand.

NEW YORK – China’s model of economic growth has been a resounding success. With its focus on export promotion, capital investment, and technological catch-up, it has lifted some 800 million people out of poverty over the past 40 years. More recently, it has done wonders for clean-energy deployment at home, as well as driving down the costs of renewables and batteries globally. In 2023 alone, China will have installed over 150 gigawatts of solar capacity – almost half the world’s total for the year.

But China’s outlook is not as rosy as these figures might suggest. Its growth engine has begun to sputter, with the International Monetary Fund’s latest projection putting this year’s GDP gain at only 5%, a far cry from the double-digit increases of recent memory. Worse, the growth rate probably will continue to drift down toward the level of advanced economies, leading many to question whether China will ever catch up to the United States in GDP terms – even with a population that is four times larger.

Chinese carbon dioxide emissions also continue to grow, now accounting for almost one-third of the world’s total. Even with the enormous push into renewables, China’s electricity consumption has risen so fast as to require an “all-of-the-above” strategy that includes large amounts of coal-fired power (notwithstanding its increasingly unfavorable economics).