Monthly Archives: November 2011

One step back, two steps forward?

Like many other countries, China has taken a hard look at its nuclear strategy in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Temporary suspension of new plants’ approval and review of safety put on hold China’s ambitious nuclear plans. The measures were only temporary and nuclear will probably come back with a vengeance in China. Not that the country has many options anyway if it really wants to reduce its CO2 emissions as recently outlined in a White Paper on the Green Agenda. With the forecasted growth in primary energy consumption for the next 20 years – depending on the scenarios anywhere between 7’000 and 14’000 million ton of CO2 equivalent in 2030 – traditional renewable energies (solar, wind or hydropower) will probably not suffice to drench China’s demand for energy.

The good news is that China may opt for more recent (3rd generation) nuclear technology. The bad news (at least for foreign sellers of nuclear technology) is that China may want to extend the timeout and develop its own nuclear technology.

No global innovators in China?

Can Chinese firms be considered as global innovators? No… at least not according to the latest Thomson Reuters report “Top 100 Global Innovators“.

The conspicuous absence of Chinese firms in the ranking is at odds with he explosion of patents that has taken place in the recent years at the domestic level. It is all the more surprising given the massive effort of international patenting carried out by ZTE and Huawei, which landed them respectively at the 2nd and 4th place in the WIPO ranking.

Is it a question of timing? Do Chinese firms take more time than others to transform their patents into products? Is it a question of geographic scope? Do Chinese firms file patents only in selected countries? May be it is  a question of methodology. The criteria used to evaluate firms include success (filed vs. granted patents), global (patents filed in the USA, Europe, Japan and China), influence (subsequent citation of patents) and volume.

Chinese firms may not yet be top global innovators but they for sure are on the way to becoming top global competitors. It can be a costly mistake to believe that patenting is the only way to secure a competitive advantage.

Fiat eco-lux

China is on an eco-path. Not the one that other countries wanted in Copenhagen but on one it can engineer at its will. The government has announced a measure to progressively phase out incandescent light bulbs from 2012 onwards. The shift would be impressive: in five years, the plan is to ramp up annual production from 3 billion to 12 billion low-consumption light bulbs (a third of the production is currently intended for domestic consumption). To make sure that the targets are reached, a plan incentivizes eco-friendly light bulb producers.

Let’s hope that the thinking of the government included the re-cycling part of the supply chain since low-consumption light bulb contain mercury. Let’s also hope that the government will monitor the quality of the light bulbs. According to the China Daily, 70% of energy saving bulbs randomly tested in Chinese localities (including Beijing and Shanghai) did not reach the energy-saving standard required while 20% did not save any electricity at all compared with incandescent light bulbs.

P.S.: If one needed an additional proof that China does not want to meddle in other countries’ environmental affairs, Chinese exporters of traditional light bulbs are not concerned by the measure.

The end of (GM)time?

A new definition of time – based on atomic clocks and not on the earth rotation – is threatening the Greenwich Meridian Time (GMT) standard.

GMT is the result of a battle between France and Great Britain at the end of the 19th century to be the standard bearer of time. The balance of forces in those days decided that time would be defined by the passage of the sun over the zero meridian line at the Greenwich Observatory (near London).

With the shift of “gravity” towards the East, one could have imagined a ’21st century struggle’ between India and China to be the new standard keepers. So far, it seems that China opposes any change (for some reason its astronomers want to retain earth-rotation based time) but we will have to wait until the result of the vote at the International Telecommunication Union (in January 2012) to find out whether China’s newly acquired soft power extends into the 4th dimension.