Why is China facing power outages? It could be drawings on Taiwan

Strange things are happening in the People’s Republic of China (PRC): electricity shortages due to the lack of coal; closure of factories; cities are darkening without warning, putting out traffic lights, blocking people in elevators and killing patients in hospitals. All the power grid would be on the verge of collapse.

Why? Are these electricity shortages due to the weaknesses of an increasingly centralized economy under the control of the Chinese Communist Party? Could they be attributed to China ban on coal imports from Australia – until 2020, the leading coal exporter to China? Or could the PRC be to wean oneself from anthrax shipped via overseas routes that could be disrupted during a dispute over Taiwan?

A a power company in northeast China published a notice on its website that unplanned outages would become “the new normal”, with power outages until next spring. The post was quickly withdrawn. Media in Jilin Province said the cause was rising coal prices leading to a shortage of supply – which doesn’t quite make sense (we’ll talk about that in a moment). Residents risked their social credit scores by using social media to say the lack of electricity was like living in neighboring North Korea.

Some Western media reports that the electricity shortage is due to a Beijing decree to reduce regional energy consumption, implying that this is part of a “enforce environmental regulations. Chinese Community Party Chairman Xi Jinping promises that China will peak in carbon emissions in nine years. electricity rationing who has energy guzzling in slow motion industrial activity. A nine-day production shutdown ending September 30 has been ordered in Ma’an, China, about 80 miles south of Shanghai. Even food processing plants have been closed.

In a directly related question, China banned all cryptocurrency activity on September 24. Last year, two-thirds of the world’s Bitcoin was mined in China using around 86 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity, nearly two-thirds of which came from coal.

A Bitcoin transaction consumes 1,544 kilowatt-hours (kWh), or the equivalent of about 53 days of electricity for an average American household, or about $ 200 electricity. Bitcoin mining used 1.1% of Chinese electricity in 2020. Coal produced 57% of China’s electricity in 2020, with the PRC importing around 8 percent of its coal, much of it for steelmaking.

Thus, the ban on cryptocurrencies, including their mining, saves enough electricity to reduce China’s thermal coal import requirements by about a third. Western media hastened to note a to study in the journal Nature Communications by Chinese and Western academics who have suggested that cryptocurrency mining alone could force China to exceed its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

President Xi also played in this Western environmental narrative when he announced to the United Nations General Assembly on September 21 that China end its funding of coal-fired power plants in other nations. Although Xi did not provide any details on exactly when this would happen, Helen Mountford of the World Resources Institute applauded the movement, saying, “China’s commitment shows that the fire hose of international public financing for coal is being extinguished.” China’s pledge, which follows recent pledges from South Korea and Japan, represents a historic turning point away from the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel.

Li Shuo, Beijing-based political advisor at Greenpeace East Asia, said exactly what the Chinese Communist regime allowed him to say about the announcement: “It is certainly a positive step forward. This will contribute to the current global trend to move away from coal.

The Biden administration, led by climate envoy John Kerry, has made cooperation on climate change a central part of its relationship with China. The administration had pleaded with China to end its practice of building new coal-fired power plants in developing countries.

If China now decides to roll back the deals it had in place in 20 countries, it will prevent the construction of 40 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired power, roughly the size of the country’s coal-fired power generation. ‘Germany. By comparison, China has built 29.8 GW of coal power last year – three quarters of the supposed gains made in Xi’s announced intention to stop funding international coal projects currently in preparation. In addition, China is now construction of nearly 100 GW of coal-fired power plant capacity and an additional 105 GW pending.

In fact, China has built more than a large coal-fired power station every week last year, more than three times the rest of the world combined, and far more than the United States has decommissioned in recent years. China generated 53% of global coal-fired electricity production in 2020, compared to 44% in 2015.

As the PRC pledged to end its funding of coal-fired electricity abroad, U.S. investors, including the huge retirement funds for California state employees and teachers, have sent tens of billions of dollars to China, including to Chinese companies involved in the PRC’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative.

China State Construction, a company blacklisted as investments by the former Trump administration for helping the Chinese military, has built several coal-fired power plants in other countries – with the help of California pension funds. CalSTRS, the California State Teachers Retirement System, owned 1.7 million shares of China State Construction in mid-2020 as well as 2.8 million shares of Shanxi Xishan Coal & Electric, which operates eight coal-fired power stations in China and nine coal mines to power them.

So while President Xi receives praise for pledging to stop building coal plants elsewhere, California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is allowing his pension funds to build coal plants in China.

What do these changes mean in energy policy? The Western point of view, rooted in self-satisfied complacency, is that the PRC is keeping its promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There is now a consensus on this view, especially among the foreign policy elite.

In truth, President Xi’s efforts to refocus the economy around his decrees may simply run into the usual problems endemic to centrally planned economies. In this case, the blackouts are akin to stories from the former Soviet Union where factories are filling orders to increase shoe production by simply making more children’s shoes – the quota would be reached but the adults could not find shoes.

Likewise, the Chinese Communist regime may be simply strapped for cash to fund endless infrastructure projects at home and abroad. The collapse of Evergrande points to bigger problems. Thus, Xi made a virtue out of necessity when he told the UN that the PRC would stop construction of foreign coal projects.

Both scenarios – China’s inability to generate enough electricity or the need to save money – are seen by the West as climate change cooperation. Our elites see what they want to see.

But there is another, more worrying possibility. A key principle of deception operations is to project a scenario that your enemy wants to believe. Thus, on the eve of D-Day in 1944, Allied deception operations reinforced the opinion among German leaders that the invasion of northern Europe would occur in Calais or even Norway, and not Normandy.

Is the PRC preparing for a conflict over Taiwan? If so, it could store coal by reducing consumption. China has already acted to stimulate national coal production while moving imports from Australia, with Mongolia more than doubles coal shipments to the PRC. Enclave Mongolia replaced Australia as China’s leading supplier of coal used to make steel. The net effect is that China has isolated itself from a loss of coal shipped by sea while masking that effort in a green mantle.

China runs on coal. Environmental commitments to outsiders mean little to the Middle Kingdom, unless those promises can be exploited for other purposes. The apparent energy problems of the PRC may not be what they appear to be.

Chuck DeVore is vice president of national initiatives at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and served on the California State Assembly from 2004 to 2010.

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