Sun KingsThe Sun Kings

In 1992, Shi Zhengrong completed his doctorate and found himself an expert in a field that wasn’t quite ready for him. He’d studied physics at Australia’s University of New South Wales, focusing on crystalline technology, the basic scientific building block of photovoltaic solar power. This knowledge, however, did not yet have much real-world application. Shi, originally from China, thought setting up a Chinese restaurant in Sydney was his best idea. As he told an audience in Hong Kong in 2008, his wife vetoed the restaurant idea and convinced him to look for work more closely related to his studies. He was able to stay in solar, working first at an academic post in Sydney—but real success followed after he started his own company. Shi returned to China and, with the help of local officials in the city of Wuxi, founded solar panel maker Suntech in 2001.

Suntech’s growth was impressive. Within a decade of its founding, it went from an unknown start-up to the world’s largest producer of photovoltaic solar modules—a corporate success that seemingly underscored China’s newfound dominance of the clean-tech world.

Excerpt originally published by ChinaFile. Read more here.

WSJGreen Shoots Under Soot-Stained Skies

The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.

—John Maynard Keynes

Beijing’s air is “crazy bad,” according to the U.S. Embassy: choking pollution regularly smothers the capital, reducing visibility to near zero, grounding planes, snarling traffic, and forcing city dwellers to don protective face masks while outside. A widely used air quality index, which in the United States rarely goes above 100 and exceeds 300 only during forest fires and other extreme events, approached the 1,000 level in Beijing in early 2013.

The effect, says a Chinese researcher, is to blot out the sun as effectively as a nuclear winter. Office workers in the capital’s skyscrapers cannot see the streets below, as a bitter, blinding pall settles over a city that hosted the 2008 “Green Olympics.” Beijingers call it “air-pocalypse” or “air-mageddon,” and they have become increasingly vocal about their frustration. “I especially want to know if the party secretary or the mayor are in Beijing these days,” a senior editor at People’s Daily wrote on his blog during record smog in January 2013. “If so, how do they guarantee they can breathe safely in Beijing?”

Excerpt originally published by Asian Review of Books. Read more here.

China Business ReviewThe Greening of Asia: The Business Case for Solving Asia’s Environmental Emergency

In this excerpt from his book The Greening of Asia: The Business Case for Solving Asia’s Environmental Emergency, Mark L. Clifford tells the tale of the inspiration sparked by the impromptu introduction of wind power to China and foreshadows the implications for China’s future in green energy.

The story of Goldwind and its founder, Wu Gang, is remarkable even in a country filled with extraordinary tales. Wu, a 1983 graduate of Urumqi’s Xinjiang Engineering Institute, was born in 1958, making him a teenager during the upheaval of China’s Cultural Revolution. Like so many other young people at the time, he was sent to spend two years in a remote village, the last six months of which he spent teaching English to middle school students just a few years younger than he was. Wu worked late into the night on his own English studies and the next day taught what he’d just learned—an experience that even three decades later he remembers as nerve-wracking. His English skills were crucial to him in his later work with Goldwind, allowing him to get the most out of visits by foreign scholars and wind industry representatives.

Wu’s journey toward Goldwind started while he was teaching at a technical college in his hometown of Urumqi and suddenly had, as he says, “a sense of crisis.” Wu felt that if he continued teaching, he would squander his life. “I had to find a new challenge,” he remembers. It was the mid-1980s, and the excitement of the Deng Xiaoping reforms was sweeping China. “My major was power, and I was looking for the future energy source.” As an engineer, he says, “I focused on technology.”

Excerpt originally published by China Business Review. Read more here.