March 3, 2020
From minerals to consumer products, China has integrated itself as an essential link in the supply of clean energy resources and technologies. Despite recent steps back towards coal and continued increases in climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions, China’s renewables sector is growing rapidly.
China’s strong manufacturing base, large domestic market, and centralized industrial policy allow it to quickly deploy and scale up new technologies. Over 60% of the world’s solar panels and half of the electric vehicles are produced in China. Meanwhile, for what it can’t produce at home, China’s state owned firms are stepping up investments in mineral production abroad. For example, Chinese companies own a quarter of the cobalt production capacity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
This should worry U.S. policy makers and security analysts. Top military leaders are now focused on a new “great power competition”. Lasting tensions from this past year’s U.S.-China trade conflict show that our mutual dependence may not be as stable as it seems. At the start of the 20th century, strategic control of oil powered the U.S. to global hegemony. Clean energy resource security will be essential to the world’s next great power.