MAC/20: Mines and Communities

China Update

Published by MAC on 2006-05-30


China Update

30th May 2006

China, India and Brazil could reduce their energy use by a quarter, according to a new World Bank/UNEP report - so long as banks put their money where their mouths pretend to be.

Despite historical emnities, China has also initiated a dialogue with Japan, to help the former"save energy and protect the environment." The prospective deal would involve Japan advising on coal mining - although the country has only one surviving underground coal mine.

As originally outlined on the MAC site last month [see: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/Action/press991.htm]

China has increased its investments in African natural resource "capture", advancing into Zimbabwe, Eritrea, DRCongo, Zambia and Sudan.

One obvious trigger for this is the recent rapprochement between the US and Libya, allowing the Bush regime access to a huge pool of middle eastern oil supplies.

That hasn't pleased China's own rightwing leadership which views this as a threat to tits own designs on Africa.


China, India, Brazil Could Slash Energy Use - Report

PlanetArk

30th May 2006

OSLO - China, India and Brazil could reduce energy use by a quarter with simple efficiency schemes but banks have been sluggish to lend to such projects, an international study said on Monday.

The three-nation report, led by the World Bank and the UN Environment Programme, said many banks had overlooked chances to boost their profits by lending to help businesses cut energy waste while oil prices hover at around US$70 a barrel.

"Cutting energy waste is the cheapest, easiest, fastest way to solve many energy problems, improve the environment and enhance both energy security and economic development," said Robert Taylor, a World Bank energy specialist who led the study.

Cost-effective retrofits in buildings and factories could reduce energy use by at least 25 percent in China, India and Brazil, it said of the four-year study. The conclusions were likely also to be true of other developing nations.

Cutting energy waste would save hundreds of millions of dollars, cut noxious air pollution and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases released by burning fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas.

China, India and Brazil are home to almost 2.6 billion people, about 40 percent of the world's population. Their energy use and emissions from fossil fuels, widely blamed for global warming, are set to double by 2030.

Many scientists say that rising temperatures could wreak havoc with the climate, bringing more heatwaves, floods, desertification and a gradual rise in world sea levels.

BETTER LIGHTS, BOILERS

Measures to offset waste include retrofits for buildings and factories, such as higher efficiency lighting or air conditioning systems, better boilers or waste heat recovery systems.

"The key source of financing is the local banking sector," said Jeremy Levin, one of the authors from the World Bank, adding that banks have yet to realise the potential for lending to unglamorous-sounding energy efficiency schemes.

"Energy efficiency may not have the same sizzle as alternative solutions such as renewable energy," he told Reuters. Still, cutting waste would be the most important path to improving energy efficiency until about 2030. Among successes, a unit of India's Pragati Paper invested US$91,000 in energy efficiency for a pulp plant, giving estimated annual savings of US$139,000. "The payback period was less than one year," Levin said. In India, five major banks were now lending to help stop energy waste. Projects in China sometimes faced hurdles because of the state grip on the banking sector while in Brazil, high interest rates had discouraged lending.

Apart from curbing energy waste "this is about getting the banks to realise that this is a profitable business area that they have overlooked for too long," said Mark Radka, head of UNEP's Paris-based energy branch. Greater energy efficiency will improve businesses' profits and so make them more solvent clients for the banks.

Story by Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent


Japan, China Eye Energy Cooperation for Better Ties

PlanetArk

30th May 2006

TOKYO - Japanese and Chinese officials expressed hope on Monday that a new initiative aimed at cooperating in saving energy and protecting the environment would help mend fences between the two countries.

Sino-Japanese relations are at their lowest point in decades, weighed down by a territorial dispute and rows related to Japan's invasion and occupation of parts of China from 1931 to 1945.

The two governments agreed on Monday to launch a policy dialogue aimed at thrashing out specific projects and goals on energy conservation. Japan also agreed to help train Chinese specialists in energy conservation and coal-mining.

"It is important for us to seize this forum as an opportunity and launch a number of projects by holding dialogue and exchanges at various levels," Japanese Trade Minister Toshihiro Nikai said in a keynote address at the start of a three-day forum of government officials, business leaders and academics from Japan and China.

"Sino-Japanese relations are not like a calm sea in spring," he said. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to Yasukuni Shrine, seen by Beijing as a symbol of Tokyo's past militarism, have chilled bilateral ties in the last few years. Japan's war dead, including some convicted war criminals, are honoured at Yasukuni.

Japan and China are also locked in a simmering stand-off over developing gas fields in the East China Sea.

The two sides disagree over the position of the border between their exclusive economic zones in the East China Sea, and Japan fears that energy-hungry China's exploitation of the area could tap into resources in its own zone.

"The two countries have agreed that they will seek to resolve the issue by making the East China Sea the sea of cooperation," said Nikai, known for his close ties to China. "I hope the issue will be resolved at an early date through mutual efforts."

Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai said closer cooperation on energy and the environment could vastly improve bilateral ties.

"If we can cooperate well in the fields of energy saving and the environment, the people of the two countries will benefit, and I believe it will push up Sino-Japanese ties to a new stage," Bo told the forum. "China and Japan are eternal neighbours."

Resource-poor Japan, which has been developing energy-saving technology since a global oil crisis in 1973, has been helping China reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a part of international efforts to combat global warming.

Chinese Ambassador to Japan Wang Yi said he was confident that joint efforts on energy and the environment would help the two sides turn a new page in their bilateral relations.

"To strengthen cooperation on energy conservation and environmental protection at a time when political ties between the two countries face difficulties ... will give new momentum to improve and steadily develop Sino-Japanese relations," Wang said. (Additional reporting by Ikuko Kao) Story by Teruaki Ueno


CHINA: 'WIN-WIN' DEALS IN AFRICA SANS RIGHTS

by Antoaneta Bezlova, BEIJING (IPS)

28th May 2006

China is becoming a force to reckon with on the African continent. The world's most populous country is busy building railways and roads in Angola, Nigeria and Kenya, revving up trade volumes with South Africa and Zambia and, most of all, guzzling up the continent's rich reserves of oil and minerals.

Increasingly too, Beijing is courting resource-rich countries, like Sudan and Zimbabwe, that have been marginalised in recent years by the West, and forging partnerships on the strength of its non-interfering foreign policy.

China has refused to link its development aid and investment programme in Africa to demands for improved human rights and democracy, as advocated by the West.

That countering the United States' geopolitical clout in Africa is at the heart of Beijing's efforts, may be gleaned from the fact that recent news of resumption of diplomatic relations between Libya and the U.S. created unease among Chinese commentators..

The two countries have not had full ties for more than 25 years, but relations significantly improved after Libya decided in December 2003 to give up its nuclear weapons programme. Last week, the Bush administration announced it would open an embassy in Tripoli and drop Libya from its list of nations that sponsor terrorism..

U.S. officials were frank in expressing their hopes that the move will encourage Libya to further open its underdeveloped oil industry, which is potentially one of the world's largest. Libya's oil reserves are reported to rank among the top ten worldwide.

Nervousness about this step forward for the U.S. in the oil-rich country was palpable in some of the opinions published in the Chinese press.

One of Beijing's dailies, the Xinjingbao, ran a signed opinion on May 21 portraying Libya's leader Muammar Qaddafi as a former "strong man" who in the past dared say "no" to the West, before noting that his ''petroleum nationalism of early years has now been replaced by a mere pragmatism''.

''Obviously, Qaddafi wants to use his country's wealth of oil to win the full recognition of the West and be accepted as part of its energy security framework,'' author Ai Cao said.

The official China Daily saw U.S.-Libya rapprochement as a potential impediment to China's own aggressive push to expand its influence in Africa.

Yuan Peng, a researcher with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, argued that after years of neglect of this ''strategic vacuum area'', Washington has come to realise the importance of a fresh start with Africa.

"Both security interests and oil interests (in the restoration of U.S.-Libyan diplomatic ties) are at the service of a grander strategic goal -- overhauling the U.S. African strategy," Yuan wrote in the China Daily.

''Will a chain reaction in African-U.S. relations be triggered off by the U.S. increasing strategic input in the continent? This is a subject worth closely watching and following,'' he concluded.

The U.S.-Libyan rapprochement comes at a time when Beijing's clout in Africa is rising.

A foray of recent visits to Africa by Chinese President Hu Jintao and foreign minister Li Zhaoxing were aimed at reinforcing perceptions of China as a non-western and non-colonial emerging superpower, eager to expand its scope of influence by generous packages of aid, ample economic contracts and commitment to diplomatic neutrality.

Diplomacy has been backed by a steady wave of investment in rebuilding and expanding infrastructure in the impoverished continent.

On Monday, China pledged a loan of one billion US dollars to oil-rich Nigeria to help it repair its dilapidated railway system. Last week saw another infrastructure deal clinched between China and Algeria, also an important African oil producer. China's Citic Group and China Railway Construction Group fended off rival tenders from European and U.S. firms to build almost half of Algeria's 1,216km East-West highway.

Last year China offered Angola a two billion dollar soft infrastructure loan in order to win a contract to develop an offshore oilfield, which India was also bidding for. In addition to bilateral donations, Beijing has also pledged 100 million dollars to the Asian Development Fund and the Africa Development Fund.

Beijing has termed its double-pronged strategy of winning political friends and securing long-term supplies of natural resources on the continent as the new 'win-win' concept of partnership with Africa.

''China plans to establish and develop a 'new type of strategic partnership with Africa characterised by equality and mutual trust on the political front, cooperation conducted on the basis of 'win-win' economics with reinforced cultural exchanges,'' said a document released in the Malian capital, Bamako in January, at the end of Li Zhaoxing's visit there.

Since 2000, Chinese trade with Africa has nearly quadrupled, reaching 39.7 billion dollars in 2005. More than 600 Chinese companies have gained a foothold on the continent. In addition, Beijing has signed more than 30 oil agreements with various African petroleum producing countries.

Nevertheless, China believes the time to establish its presence firmly in the continent is limited. Chinese experts predict the next five to eight years will be a golden time for Chinese companies to invest in Africa.

''Africa has become a new focus for global investors, and Chinese companies will be presented with huge business opportunities if they enter the market early,'' Chi Changsheng, an expert with the National Development and Research Commission, China's top planning body, told a forum on Chinese investment in Africa, which opened in the capital this week.

But Beijing's quest to secure energy supplies and diplomatic support has also led it into partnerships with some unsavoury African governments. Sudan, whose regime has been accused of genocide in the Darfur region, is currently China's largest overseas production base. Zimbabwe, long criticised by the West for its human rights record, is another trade and military ally of China.

Touring Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya, last month, Chinese President Hu Jintao repeatedly emphasised that China would adhere to its long-standing non-interventionist policy in dealing with other countries. ''We respect the political model chosen by the African people,'' he was quoted as saying in Nairobi. (END)

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