Oregon needs Mandarin and study abroad in China programs as part of its strategy to slow climate change. I think Energy Secretary Stephen Chou might agree. From the Wired magazine article “The Key to Fixing Global Warming: China?” (here, and here with an alternative title: “The Radical Pragmatist: Energy secretary Steven Chu wants to change the way people think about global warming. And that means changing the way they think about China”):
After China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, its economy soared. As a result, so did its carbon emissions. To make the products the West demanded, the nation had factories operating at full tilt no matter how old or polluting. To create the infrastructure to support its new economy, China generated unimaginable amounts of energy-intensive cement and steel. In 2006, China surpassed the US in total emissions.
For Chu, this makes China the key to America’s energy future. Since the US and China produce some 40 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, Chu argues that far-reaching multicountry agreements aren’t really necessary. All the diplomatic inertia and endless compromise make them difficult to achieve and unlikely to have real teeth. It’s smarter to deal with China alone. A massive investment by the US and China, and a series of strong treaties between the two countries, would have a big effect on actual emissions, and the pacts would also serve as a model and inspiration for other countries. In part because they’re such massive polluters, the US and China have been the two countries stifling progress toward international agreements. If they could agree, others would feel the logjam had broken and follow along. It’s like a high school movie: Once the jocks and the nerds unite for a common cause, everyone falls in line.
Chu has been in office for only a little over a year, and his power is largely limited to investments and arm-twisting. But he’s nonetheless managed to help lay the groundwork for a fundamental shift in how the US tackles climate change—by taking it seriously and by embracing China not as a nation to fear but as a partner to encourage.
Chu is succeeding because of his indefatigable pragmatism, a trait that pleases businesspeople as much as it sometimes irks environmentalists. And he’s succeeding because he has won respect from the Chinese—both because of his Nobel Prize and because of his ethnic roots. “Most of China’s leaders are engineers and scientists, so when they see someone with the same background, they can talk,” says Peggy Liu, a former venture capitalist based in Shanghai and now chair of the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy. “And Chu is Chinese, so there is some kinship. In China, if you can say that your ancestor came from the same province, you are family.”
In the US, he’s got something else: more than $100 billion to lend out and $30 billion in stimulus grants for projects like advanced vehicles and renewable energy. That’s why he’s in Ohio today. But any entrepreneur or company that takes his money should know that one of the things Chu wants them to do is figure out a better way to think about China: not as a competitor but as an ally.
National security analyst Tom Barnett concurs (here):
Chu's vision: big-time Sino-American partnership in green technology to reduce carbon emissions. It's very Thomas Friedman-like and very logical. …….
….In short, a two-headed lead goose beats a one-headed unilateralist.