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has made big strides in greening its energy sector. But while some hope this
means the country can become a new leader in the fight against global climate
change, Beijing’s goals are different. The moves it is making now are aimed at
putting China in an advantageous geopolitical position, especially in terms of
trade. Moreover, its momentum on the green energy front may not be sustainable.
Dr. Frank Umbach
is using the Mekong as a geopolitical tool. The river provides much needed
irrigation water and hydropower potential to countries downstream, but Beijing
can choke the flow with a network of 20 planned dams. If the downstream
countries joined together, they would have a chance of preventing China from
using strong-arm tactics. As it stands however, each country is dealing
individually with the Chinese, ensuring Beijing has the upper hand.
China faces three big challenges in its energy strategy: reducing pollution, mitigating the negative effects of climate change and securing overland supply. The country has made huge investments to achieve its goals, but macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainties could yet derail Beijing’s plans. In the end, China is likely to be successful, but will have to deftly manage its energy policies and alliances.