Evaluating China’s Energy Outlook: The Reds Are Far From Green

The direction of China’s energy policy has become a conundrum. On the face of it, Beijing presents itself as an exemplar of the clean energy transition and a responsible global actor breaking its long-standing fossil-fuel addictions. China’s stellar roll-out of renewable infrastructure and its recent international pledges on decarbonisation lend support to such a narrative. However, the reality is different. The Asian country remains the world’s largest energy consumer with an incredibly energy-intensive industrial sector. More than 80% of its energy mix comes from fossil fuels, and the country is the major producer and consumer of coal globally. China is the world’s biggest polluter and its carbon footprint is only set to increase. Worse still, China’s reliance on coal remains a consciously built-in feature of its future energy policy.

This policy brief has three main objectives. First, it analyses China’s current energy mix and the likely future trends for both its fossil and clean energy sectors. A special focus is placed on China’s growing reliance on coal, as well as on the direction of the country’s oil and gas imports, both of which have serious repercussions for global markets and the Sino-Russian relationship. China’s clean energy sector is then analysed and put into perspective. Second, the brief explores the unique characteristics of Chinese energy policy and the goal of energy security as its guiding principle. China’s economic and energy outlook is not just a product of technocratic deliberations but follows the dictum of the Chinese Communist Party, which remains the nucleus of the country’s political life. Finally, the paper closes with an overview of the most important considerations for EU policymakers and puts forward a number of policy recommendations.

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