Cultural Diplomacy News (CDN)
Dr. Eva Sternfeld (Professor of Sinology, Technische University Berlin; Germany)

15.09.2011 - Interview conducted by Edward Freeman

Q) With regard to energy, where do you think China will be in 20 years?

Most predictions and projected scenarios suggest that China will continue in a similar fashion to what has been witnessed in the past 10 years. This is incredible - and, of course, means we will see huge increases in energy consumption.  You could also consider a scenario, in which China pursues more energy efficient policies, but this is not something that Chinese economists are supposed to think of; they must simply think of growth.

Q) You touched on the process of urbanisation, which is taking place at an incredible rate. Is this sustainable, and what are the potential consequence of such developments?

This is something that comes hand-in-hand with industrialisation; it happened also in [Western] countries, for example in Germany 70-80% of people lives in cities. Now China is going in this direction, but this a normal development, and, remember, there are still 600-700 million people in China who live in the countryside; they do not sustain themselves simply with agriculture, but also small businesses, because actually there is not so much agricultural land, at least not enough to feed the rural population - and therefore many are forced to go to cities to find work.

Q) You mentioned China’s attitude towards the global climate change crisis - how their opinions are mostly focused on their own needs and interests - do you think there’s a chance that they will change that view, and move closer to a global perspective in which all countries should take responsibility.

It’s a difficult thing, and China has many other problems they have to solve first; they have to think about energy, security etc. But, for example, with the economic financial crisis in Europe and the USA it seems that China has realised that they cannot stay outside; they have to get involved - and the same is probably the same with environmental issues. First of all, they have to look at their own country - and they are already doing a lot - but they are increasingly becoming more important economically and politically and therefore at some point the future will have to take a more global perspective, whether they want to or not.

Q) Finally, because of the way in which China uses fossil fuels, and the fact that at some point they will need to counter that in some way, do you think that China could in fact be a fertile breeding ground for innovative developments in renewable energies?

I guess so, yes, they are investing a lot of money in renewable and also in research and development because they also see it as a market in which they can export many products. So far, many of more complicated pieces of technology have been imported to China, but now they are beginning to reach the stage where they can develop their own technology. I think they will soon catch up Europe and the USA in terms of technology.