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商业 - 科技

中国在清洁能源领域领先全球,美国应该接受现实

Jeffrey Ball 2019年06月06日

美国对清洁能源领域的兴趣没有那么持久,却很想打垮中国这个“绿色巨人”。

如果将中美关系比作潜在的公司并购,那么现在似乎是做空两家公司股票的好机会。中美两国在清洁能源产业领域相互影响则最令人担忧。该领域涉及多个快速增长的产业,包括太阳能电池板、电池和电动汽车等产品。

中国将绿色产业列为战略重点,成为清洁能源设备最大的出产国,清洁能源使用也已经全球领先。美国对清洁能源领域的兴趣没有那么持久,却很想打垮中国这个“绿色巨人”。

这种做法损害的不只是地球,还有美国的底线。

美国政府和一些美国公司领导欢呼的贸易持久战产生了反效果,原本挺战派认为贸易战有助于美国清洁能源产业,事实却恰恰相反。反华热潮还导致美国错失新机遇,无法利用中国推动绿色产业的战略为美国企业和消费者谋求福利。所谓机遇是指,中国正在采取一些鲜为人知却可能意义深远的措施推动绿色企业现代化,重新安排了大批效益低下的绿色补贴,并将可能数量庞大的资本转向低碳方向。中国这两项同步转型为明智的美国企业提供了新财源——从无需组建合资企业就能够在中国销售电动汽车,到向 “一带一路”基建投资计划涉及的国家销售绿色产品和服务等。

简而言之,中国的清洁能源领域——不妨称之为“绿色中国公司”——正在逐渐壮大。而且,正如我在布鲁金斯学会发表的一篇新论文中指出,美国对“绿色中国公司”的态度也应该成熟起来。

事与愿违的小规模太阳能阻击战

跨越太平洋的贸易战已经导致了意外损伤,主要在太阳能方面。五年多以前,美国对进口的中国太阳能电池板征收关税,指责已经成为全球最大生产国的中国提供了不公平的补贴,并在全球市场上“倾销”。美国希望开征关税实质上促进美国太阳能电池板的生产,但未能如愿。全球范围来看,美国在太阳能电池板生产方面一直表现不佳,就算征收了关税,现在情况也没有得到改善。非营利组织太阳能基金会公布的数据显示,2017至2018年间美国太阳能领域就业总人数减少了3.2%,至24.2万人左右,其中占总就业人数14%的太阳能制造业尤其糟糕,减少了将近9%。该基金会表示,关税“抑制了行业增长”。

关税削弱美国的竞争力,尤其是严重削弱了美国在多晶硅领域的竞争力,而多晶硅是美国相对领先的少数市场之一。多晶硅是制造太阳能电池板的关键原材料。美国对中国太阳能电池板征收关税后,中国对美国多晶硅征收了关税,导致美国多家大型多晶硅工厂紧缩开支。挪威REC Silicon公司就受到波及,该公司在华盛顿州摩西湖开设了多晶硅工厂。关税导致REC在美国制造的产品在全球最大的市场中国失去了竞争力,先是缩减了生产规模,随后又在5月初宣布,“除非进入中国多晶硅市场的渠道能恢复”,否则6月30日以前将关闭工厂。

虽然保护主义政策在诸多经济领域产生了意想不到的后果,对清洁能源领域来说问题尤其严重。汽车和钢铁等其他产业最初都在地方发展,壮大之后才会全球化;但清洁能源产业在本世纪头十年才成为重要力量,基本上从一开始就是全球性的。SunPower是美国最大的太阳能电池板制造商之一,其控股股东是法国道达尔石油公司;该公司的大部分业务在马来西亚、菲律宾和墨西哥,在中国也制造电池板。通用汽车曾经表示,计划到2023年销售最多20款电动汽车,旗下电动版雪佛兰Bolt车型的主要供应商是韩国LG化学公司,而且将中国当成关键市场。美国主要的清洁能源产品销售商通常都有中国供应商、投资者或客户,对各相关方来说,当美国政策充分利用“绿色中国公司”带来的机遇而不是打压时,益处显然更大。

美国确实有理由担心“绿色中国公司”崛起。中国凭借特有的经济模式,以强大的本土优势在全球开展绿色竞赛。中国制定五年经济计划,为具有战略意义的产业提供补贴,国有政策性银行也会资助负有民族使命的行业。在中国经营的美国公司仍然面临着实际障碍,包括知识产权保护参差不齐、政府偏袒中国公司,以及外国公司在中国市场上很难独立经营等。对美国来说,与“绿色中国公司”合作仍将面临政治雷区,但由于清洁能源行业已经全球化,美国公司也没有什么更好的选择,只能努力去做。

投身其中的大好时机

尽管贸易战威胁甚嚣尘上,但现在是美国与“绿色中国公司”进行接触的最佳时机,因为中国正在推动绿色产业现代化,为美国资本在全球最大的绿色产业市场上创造了机会。

中国已经花费数百亿美元补贴绿色产业。中国仍然是全球最大的煤炭消耗国和碳排放国,而且还催生了大批效率低下的清洁能源公司。两方面中国均已承认,正因如此才对许多清洁能源补贴重新规划,希望提高效率。

中国的电动汽车补贴是个很好的例子。某些车型电动版的价格仅为燃油车的一半。据彭博社新能源财经统计,去年中国纯电动汽车销量在全球总销量中占到了60%。但中国领导人担心相关补贴并不能实现理想的技术创新,因此正在调整补贴结构,引导市场改变模式以更有效地使用电力,提高单次充电续航里程,这种转变可能对技术先进的美国企业很有利。去年,中国规定外国汽车制造商无需与中国企业合资就可以在华生产汽车,可能也是好消息。这也正是今年1月总部位于加州的特斯拉公司在上海开设大型电动汽车工厂的重要原因。

中国不仅在合理化补贴,也在努力引导大量公共和私人资本转向低碳方向,这就是 “绿色金融”政策,在许多国家已经成为热门词汇。但如果中国兑现承诺,美国或英国正在采取的措施立刻相形见绌。中国抛出了不少“胡萝卜”,比如降低“绿色债券”的利率等;同时也祭出了“大棒”,比如明年开始上市公司必须在年报中披露环境责任等。

即使中国的“绿色金融”政策遇到障碍,其实肯定会遇上,届时美国和西方其他国家的会计师事务所到银行等机构也会迎来好机会。西方公司开始在“主场”发展绿色金融业务,但中国是个大得多的潜在市场,西方银行可以在中国市场上做承销,会计师可以做审计,顾问可以提供咨询服务。安永已经成为中国企业发行绿色债券环境合法性的最大审计机构之一,摩根大通和其他美国银行也在推销自家服务,帮助中国客户发行绿色债券,目前主要在其他国家发行。

世界需要中国发展清洁能源产业,更好地保护地球。这点毫无疑问,但历史经验证明,在气候问题上呼唤礼让不是重点。真正重要到应该切实行动的是,越来越多的美国企业需要“绿色中国公司”才能成功,并获得经济回报。(财富中文网)

杰弗里·鲍尔是斯坦福大学斯蒂尔-泰勒能源政策和金融中心的驻校学者。本文改编自布鲁金斯学会发表的论文《发展绿色中国公司:中国全力推进清洁能源为西方创造了经济机遇》,鲍尔是该学会的非常驻高级研究员。

译者:艾伦

审校:夏林

If the relationship between the U.S. and China were a potential corporate merger, now would seem a good time to short the stocks. Nowhere is the interplay more fraught than in the clean-energy sector, the universe of fast-growing industries built around products such as solar panels, batteries, and electric cars.

China, which has decreed green industries a strategic priority, has become the world’s largest producer of clean-energy equipment and of clean energy itself. The U.S. has shown less sustained interest in those arenas – but plenty of interest in trying to quash the Chinese green giant.

That approach is hurting not just the planet but America’s bottom line.

A long-running tariff war cheered by Washington and by some American chief executives is backfiring, harming the U.S. clean-energy industry that its boosters said it would help. The anti-China fever also is blinding the U.S. to emerging opportunities to leverage China’s green push for the benefit of American corporations and consumers. The opportunities are the outgrowth of a little-noticed but potentially far-reaching effort by China to modernize its green enterprise — to retool a raft of economically inefficient green subsidies and to shift potentially massive amounts of capital in a lower-carbon direction. Those twin Chinese transformations offer savvy U.S. players new ways to make money — from selling electric cars in China without having to ink joint ventures with Chinese firms to peddling green products and services to countries targeted in the massive Chinese foreign-infrastructure-investment program known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

In short, China’s clean-energy sector — call it Green China Inc. — is growing up. And, as I argue in a new paper published by the Brookings Institution, the U.S. approach to Green China Inc. should grow up too.

A solar-energy skirmish backfires

Consider the latest unintended casualty in one battle of the trans-Pacific trade war, a skirmish over solar. More than five years ago, the U.S. imposed tariffs on imported Chinese solar panels, accusing China, by far the world’s largest producer, of unfairly subsidizing them and of “dumping” them on the global market. The U.S. hoped the tariffs would materially boost American solar-panel manufacturing, but that hasn’t happened. The U.S. never was a globally significant solar-panel manufacturer, and, despite the tariffs, it still isn’t one today. Between 2017 and 2018, total U.S. solar employment fell 3.2%, to about 242,000 jobs, according to the Solar Foundation, a nonprofit group. Solar-manufacturing jobs, which accounted for 14% of that total, fared particularly poorly, shrinking by nearly 9%. The tariffs “restrained industry growth,” the solar group said.

The tariffs have eroded U.S. competitiveness especially significantly in one of the few global solar markets in which the country actually was a significant manufacturer: the production of polysilicon, a key raw material used to make solar panels. After the U.S. slapped tariffs on Chinese panels, China did so on U.S. polysilicon, prompting retrenchments at several big American polysilicon factories. The latest twist involves REC Silicon, a Norwegian firm that owns a polysilicon plant in Moses Lake, Wash. REC had already slashed production at the plant because the Chinese tariffs have made REC’s U.S. product uncompetitive in China, the top global market; the company announced in early May that it planned to mothball the plant by June 30 “unless access to Chinese polysilicon markets is restored.”

Though policies billed as protectionist have had unintended consequences in many parts of the economy, they’re particularly problematic in the clean-energy sector. Other industries, such as cars and steel, grew regionally and globalized only later in their development. But the clean-energy sector, which emerged as a significant force only in the first decade of this century, has been global essentially from the start. SunPower, one of the biggest U.S.-based solar-panel makers, has as its majority owner the French oil company Total; it does much of its manufacturing in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Mexico, and also makes panels in China. GM, which has said it plans to sell as many as 20 electric-car models by 2023, uses South Korea’s LG Chem as a major supplier of the electric Chevy Bolt and sees China as a crucial electric-car market. Major American sellers of clean-energy wares typically have Chinese suppliers, investors, or customers. They have more to gain from U.S. policies that seek to leverage Green China Inc. than from those that try to bury it.

To be sure, the U.S. has reasons to worry about Green China Inc.’s rise. With its command-and-control economy, China is running the global green race with a strong home-track advantage: five-year economic plans, subsidies for industries it deems strategic, and state-owned policy banks to help finance the national mission. And American firms doing business in China continue to face real obstacles: spotty intellectual-property protection, government preferences for Chinese firms, and enduring constraints on the ability of foreign firms to go it alone in the Chinese market. Engaging with Green China Inc. will remain a political minefield for the U.S. But given the globalism of the clean-energy sector, the American business community has no smart choice but to try.

A good time to engage

For all the trade-war saber-rattling, indeed, now is a particularly opportune moment for savvy U.S. engagement with Green China Inc., because China’s move to modernize its green push creates opportunities for U.S. capital in the world’s biggest green-industry market.

China has spent tens of billions of dollars subsidizing its green industries. Not only does China remain the world’s largest coal burner and carbon emitter, but it has created a raft of inefficient clean-energy firms. It acknowledges both, which is why it is restructuring many clean-energy subsidies in a bid to produce more bang for the buck.

A good example is China’s electric-car subsidies, which in the case of some models make buying an electric car half as costly as it otherwise would be. China last year accounted for 60% of all the pure-electric cars sold globally, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. But Chinese leaders are concerned the subsidies aren’t inducing enough technological innovation. So they’re retooling the subsidy structure to steer the market toward models that use power more efficiently and go farther on every charge. That shift could help technologically advanced U.S.-based players. So could China’s move, last year, to let foreign auto makers build cars in China without Chinese joint-venture partners. That was a big reason California-based Tesla broke ground in January on a massive electric-car factory in Shanghai.

Beyond rationalizing its subsidies, China is attempting to bend massive flows of public and private capital in a lower-carbon direction. This push, dubbed “green finance,” has become a buzz phrase in many countries. But if Beijing follows through on its pledges, it will dwarf anything underway in Washington or London. China is dangling carrots, such as lower interest rates for so-called green bonds, and sticks, such as a mandate that, by next year, publicly traded Chinese companies disclose environmental liabilities in yearly public reports.

Even if China’s green-finance effort hits snags, as it surely will, it will create real opportunities for U.S. and other Western companies, from accounting firms to banks. Western firms already are ginning up green-finance businesses on their home turf, but China presents a far bigger potential market for Western banks to underwrite and sell, accountants to audit, and consultants to advise. Ernst & Young already has become one of the biggest checkers of the environmental legitimacy of corporate green-bond issuances in China. JPMorgan Chase and other U.S. banks are peddling their services to help Chinese clients issue green bonds, so far focusing on issuances in other countries.

The world needs China to clean up its act for the good of the planet. That’s true enough, yet history suggests that calls for climate comity are largely beside the point. Far more relevant as a motive for significant action is that a growing array of U.S. players need Green China Inc. to succeed for the good of their financial returns.

Jeffrey Ball is scholar-in-residence at Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance. This essay is adapted from “Grow Green China Inc.: How China’s Epic Push for Cleaner Energy Creates Economic Opportunity for the West,” a paper published by the Brookings Institution, where Ball is a non-resident senior fellow.

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