Harvard Business Review says if you want to change the world then partner with China. This is not because of bias in favor of China. It is a recognition that 6-8% GDP annual growth now and higher growth for the past few decades has made China the place where most of the change in the world has been happening. China passes Japan’s economy in overall size in 2010 and is twice as large in 2014. China passes the US in total power generation a couple of years ago and next year will have about 50% more power generation.
China has packed the equivalent of 200 years of industrialization in America into just two decades. A population of two million is considered a small city. A Chicago of new skyscrapers is built every year. And 200 million more people will move into cities in the next 12 years. Here, big is bigger than you can imagine.
This vast scale means that if China can’t carry out breakthroughs in sustainability fast enough, the consequences will break the planet. But the speed of change means China has an opportunity to leapfrog to the latest practices. And changes in infrastructure and behavior are in many ways easier to trigger here.
In order to support an expected one billion people living in cities by 2030, China is the only country building whole communities at a time. It’s using this development to rapidly experiment with new technologies, policies, and financial systems. In fact, China is innovating at a city level, designating tens of cities at a time as pilots for every viable clean technology. Each of these pilots exploring sustainable urbanization is a potential model that China might be able to scale to go green. Its ability to experiment and accept failure is making China not just the world’s factory, but its cleantech laboratory as well.
Local mayors in charge of these pilot cities have the flexibility to implement their own approaches, but they lack solutions. That means these mayors are eager for social and technological innovation and they’re keen to partner with organizations and governments overseas. The government of Singapore, along with Singaporean companies, is working with Tianjin on testing eco-city concepts in clean energy and urban planning. A coalition of German companies and the German government is working with Changzhou to provide vocational training at scale based on German manufacturing equipment.
Chinese cities can implement, test, refine, and bring to market innovative solutions to large-scale infrastructure problems faster than anywhere in the world.
Because of the corporate nature of China’s centralized government, one announcement from the top can make an impact on the behavior of 1.3 billion people. On June 1, 2008, China banned free plastic bags in grocery stores across the country. The policy has led to at least 67 billion fewer bags in its first five years.
Ministries across the government are constantly reviewing new policies to implement. Constant incremental reform is the norm, so bringing good ideas to China has the potential to create significant long-term change.
In cities, the Party Secretaries and Mayors are the key decision makers, and they exert CEO-like control. China’s heavy industries, similarly, are state-owned, with only a few large players and decision makers. This means that introducing economically viable systemic changes in these industries is more straightforward in China than other countries.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.