Introduction to the website

This website is a project of Focus on the Global South. It gathers together a wide range of English language texts relating to energy development in China. The site contains information and analysis about coal, oil, hydro-power, nuclear, renewable energy (especially wind and solar energy), and energy intensive industries and energy efficiency, as well as about the power sector more generally. In addition to giving an overall understanding of the different branches of the Chinese energy sector, the selection of texts also seeks to explore some of the linkages between energy, work, land and the environment, as well as structures of ownership, control and decision-making. This is based on an understanding that energy is a key means of production and subsistence. The materials seek to portray both the positive and negative effects that energy development has on people’s lives, and also conflicts of interests that in some cases are resulting from this development. In addition to written materials directly relating to energy, there are also materials on related areas, such as climate change. It also contains a brief general introduction to questions of work, land, civil society and geopolitical concerns in China, in order to understand the social, political, economic and environmental context, in which China’s energy development is occurring, and its role in the world political and economic system.

The website contains several hundreds, if not thousands, of articles written by a wide variety of different actors. These actors range from small grassroots Chinese NGOs, larger international NGOS, the Chinese government, Chinese university researchers, foreign governments, foreign researchers and think-tanks, labour organizations, as well as international and regional political, economic and financial institutions, and also the commercial sector. The material includes short reports in the order of just 2-3 pages, as well as large numbers of very detailed reports and analyses that run to several hundred pages in length. For the most part, the articles are listed in each category in reverse chronological order, with the most recent articles at the top of the page, and the oldest material at the bottom of the page. Some of the reports have a social, political, or economic focus, whilst others are more focused on the scientific and technological aspects of energy.  The website does not only contain articles that reflect the political concerns, opinions and values of the team from Focus on Global South that have built this website, but also includes a much wider range of opinions and perspectives. We have made this decision in order to present a very complete range of material relating to such a complex topic. It is up to the reader to draw their own political interpretations from the wide range of material we are presenting here.  We have adopted a similar approach with regard to the web-links that we have included. These web-links cover a wide range of organizations, institutions and also relevant individual links which demonstrate a high-level of expertise on, and involvement in, China’s energy sector. We have kept the number of texts that we have written ourselves to a bare minimum, namely this text, the brief thematic introductions to each form of energy and an article that contextualizes China’s role in the world today. Apart from these brief pieces, the rest of the website is devoted to the material described above.

Origins of the website 

The idea for this website originated in a contact making, research and networking trip to China initiated by Kolya Abramsky, which was broadened to include Focus on the Global South. Yu Yin, who was working with the China Programme of Focus on Global South at the time of the visit participated in the visit on behalf of Focus.  Over a 7 week period in May and June 2011 they met with people in Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, and Yunnan, and also in Hong Kong. This visit was undertaken to learn about China’s energy sector. However, the final website was subsequently undertaken as a Focus on the Global South project and is the result of a further two years of extensive additional gathering of materials, reading and research. The range and depth of the issues covered is far greater than could possibly have been achieved with the initial research trip alone. As Focus on the Global South team, together with Kolya Abramsky, we have gone to great efforts to also include coverage of topics and geographical locations that were not possible to cover either at all, or to a satisfactory level, during the visit, either due to lack of time or lack of contacts to relevant people.

Although the final product is far more comprehensive than the initial research trip, it is still appropriate to provide some background information about this trip. The visit to China was an attempt to develop an initial understanding about energy development in China, the discourses and frameworks used by the different sectors and key actors, and the different, and at times conflicting, interests that shape development in the energy sector and the programs associated with this development. A major goal of this visit was to learn about the social, political, economic and environmental issues and conflicts relating to energy development in China, and to exchange perspectives about these issues; to develop an understanding about the challenges of energy development, learn how different grassroots, community and civil society organizations engage with different institutions and processes to best strengthen themselves and promote their welfare; and to exchange perspectives with them about what is happening in the energy sector outside of China.

During the visit, we had a wide range of meetings (both formal and informal) with organizations, institutions and individuals. This included people working on energy from a variety of different range of perspectives: various environmental NGOs, foundations and think-tanks (from China, the USA and Germany, as well as international NGOs) ; university professors; Chinese international networking organizations on social and environmental justice issues; workers; journalists; corporations; international and national policy makers/institutions; knowledgeable individuals. In addition to these meetings we also: a) attended public fora on particular themes, that local organizations had organized (independently of our visit), b) did site visits to specific energy projects, c) read materials and reports produced by these organizations, and institutions, and also from other sources.

This website is an English language website, and it is intended as such, as its main audience is intended to be for people living and working outside of China who are interested to learn about and understand energy in China. However, this is also a major limitation. The bulk of material relating to energy in China is, of course, in Chinese. Similarly, the bulk of organizations and institutions working on these questions operate in Chinese, and their websites are in Chinese. Many important organizations, such as the Chinese Wind Energy Association, or the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, simply do not have an English site. This also applies to some important government agencies, and certainly applies to many of the smaller and more grassroots and community orientated NGOs. The material which is available in English is only a very limited amount of the total relevant material. Also, another concern is that translations often lag behind the originals. Something written in 2008, for instance, may be the most up-to-date text that is available in English on that particular theme. Given the pace at which change is occurring in China’s energy sector, this is an important limitation, as material may in fact be quite out-of-date by the time it is translated into English. As such, any English language site will, by its very nature, be extremely limited in value. Anyone wishing to get a more serious understanding of the energy sector in China needs to be able to access material in Chinese, not just English. What is in fact remarkable is the sheer volume of material about the Chinese energy sector that does exist in English, especially as compared to the amount of material that organizations and institutions working on energy related issues from English speaking countries make the effort to translate into Chinese, which we imagine to be a far smaller amount of material.

We believe that this website is as comprehensive as possible and is an important resource. We also believe that the visit to China which it resulted from was a worthwhile undertaking. There are many people outside of China who are interested to learn about these questions but who are not able to read Chinese, and who may not be in a position to undertake their own travel to China. As such, this site will be very useful for them. On the other hand, for people within China who are able to read English, we believe this site can also be useful for them, owing to the way in which it combines information about many different aspects of the energy sector in one single site. The site is not exhaustive, and nor is this the intention. However, it is meant to give a broad picture, and we believe it has successfully achieved this goal. Furthermore, its particular focus on the question of social and environmental struggles in the sector makes it in many ways a unique resource.

The purpose of this website: China in a Global Context 

The way in which the world’s energy system evolves in the years ahead will be intimately intertwined with different possible ways out of the world economic, financial and political crises, solutions which may be more or less authoritarian, or more or less emancipatory. Changes within the world’s energy sector are speeding up dramatically. Ecological, political, economic and financial factors are converging to ensure that energy production and consumption are set to become central to global political, economic and financial dynamics. This is true of energy in general and the expanding renewable energy sector in particular.

However, we do not believe that long term changes to the world’s energy system can be achieved in one country on its own.  Nor do we believe that alternative production and consumption relations, which are needed in order to change the world’s energy system, can be built in one country. We believe that a world-wide process of change is necessary. The following are some important considerations  for thinking about such a global process of energy transition, and are meant to encourage debate within organizations:

  • The need for rapid and far reaching reductions in CO2 emissions is non-negotiable. Radical changes in the world’s energy sector are necessary. This includes a twin approach of a) massively reducing fossil fuel extraction and consumption, and leaving two thirds of the world’s fossil fuel resources unused in order to avoid releasing the carbon that they contain, and b) massively expanding the contribution of renewable energy sources into the world’s energy matrix. Affected communities and workers throughout the world must lead the discussion on how to bring about this change.
  • There is a need to manage resource scarcity collectively and fairly in a way that actively strives to avoid pitting different communities and workers, both waged and unwaged, in different regions of the world, against one another. Energy sovereignty and autonomy as a basis for confronting and, in the long term, overcoming energy related inequalities in the world-market. There is a need for a fundamental equalization of energy consumption patterns, in order to overcome national, regional and international inequalities in access to energy. Some of the world’s highest energy consuming regions (which also benefit from highly unequal and exploitative production, commercial and military relations), need to radically reduce their energy consumption, whilst other countries need the opportunity to massively increase democratic access to energy consumption and the social, political and economic benefits that this brings.
  • Collective efforts must be taken to ensure that the globally expanding renewable energy sector contributes towards a positive shift in power relations, and does not provide a new basis for exploitative power relations. Merely advocating a shift of private sector investment away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy sector will mean that renewable energy will become another source of private accumulation that takes place on the backs of affected workers and communities. This is already occurring in many parts of the world and is likely to occur even more in the coming years unless deliberate organizational and political efforts are made to avoid  it, based on ensuring that renewable energy resources and technologies are under common, community, public and democratic control and ownership and are accessible to the world’s population.
  • There is a need to find energy and climate solutions that contribute to, and speed up, a wider process of long term emancipatory social change in the face of the current world-financial-economic and political crisis.

Based on this, there is a need to:

  1. Strengthen collective capacity for exchange and mutual support between different struggles in defence of livelihoods, rights and territories related to the global energy sector.
  2. Strengthen collective capacity for exchange and mutual support between different struggles in defence of common/collective/cooperative or public ownership and control of energy resources, infrastructures and technologies.
  3. Lay the foundations for solidarity, upward leveling, relationships between workers and communities in different branches of the energy sector and avoiding downward leveling competition between them.
  4. Develop long term collaboration and cooperation initiatives in non-commercial renewable energy technology transfer, open source technology research, education, training and grassroots exchanges.
  5. Deepen a long term strategic debate about how, and for what purposes, wealth is produced and distributed in society and how people’s subsistence needs are met, as part of a shift to a new energy system.

Throughout much of the world, the energy sector is defined by a range of social and environmental conflicts, and many different grassroots organizational processes are emerging, as affected communities and workers seek to influence the energy sector. An important task is to create possibilities for building up a world-wide dialogue, common analyses, political perspectives and long term collaboration processes that both strengthen specific local campaigns, initiatives, struggles and also the creation of alternatives. The visit to China, described above, was part of a wider process of learning about these worldwide processes in the world’s energy sector. We hope the website can contribute to different organizational efforts to learn from each other, come into contact with one another , and build collaborative links and organizational processes based around the above understanding of energy transition. China’s role within the world’s energy sector, both as it currently exists, and in relation to how it may look in the future, is increasingly significant.

Some basic facts surrounding China’s energy development:

  • China has recently overtaken the US as the world’s largest consumer of energy;
  • China is rapidly becoming a world leader in wind and solar energy, both in terms of use and also manufacturing capacity;
  • China is home to major new manufacturing companies in the sector, such as Goldwind;
  • China is a world leader in energy efficiency measures;
  • A new coal-powered station is opened approximately each week in China;
  • Every year, several thousand coal miners die in accidents, though the government is leading efforts to “clean up” the sector and also making it safer (reducing the numbers of deaths per year);
  • In China’s  energy-intensive sectors, many of which export to the rest of the world, such as cars and computers, there have recently been important, and successful, strikes by workers.

It is increasingly important that global networks, movements and local organisations  are able to accurately inform themselves about what is happening in China. Conversely, there are a range of situations in China in which different actors could, potentially, benefit from international solidarity, which is so far not forthcoming to any significant degree, especially in relation to worker and peasant conflicts relating to the different branches of the energy sector and the energy intensive industries. It is hoped that this website can help to make visible to English speakers some of the major developments happening in the energy sector in China, and to provide an important bridge to international grassroots discussions and initiatives relating to energy.


We would like to acknowledge the financial support which we received for the visit to China and this website from the Network for Social Change and the Lipman – Miliband Trust. We are also grateful to those individuals, organizations and institutions who generously shared materials, provided us with contacts, or made introductions that has made this work possible, as well as the fact that a number of already existing websites were useful resources from which we have drawn heavily when ordering the material on this website. The majority of the photos contained in this site are photos that we took during our visit to China. However, a few additional photos have also been used from free-share sources.


While we have read a very large number of the articles on this site, there are also many articles that we have not yet had the chance to read. However, we have enough confidence in the authors of the texts (either as organizations, institutions or individuals) that we can assure the reader that they are serious and legitimate texts. In terms of the accuracy of the documents, all documents are documents which have been previously published, with their own internal editing and fact-checking processes associated with them. As such, we have not engaged in any additional fact-checking and editorial tasks of any of the individual texts. Any errors contained are the responsibility of the original authors. Having said this, we have made a big effort to ensure that the organizations whose materials are included are reputable and sincere, and are committed to putting out reliable and accurate data, regardless of their particular analytical outlook or specific location within the energy sector. The same applies as regards the books we have listed in the section on books.  Finally, it is important to stress that the organizational and analytical priorities expressed in the way this site has been organized and structured reflect the views and concerns of those of us who have made the website. They do not reflect the concerns of the organizations, institutions and individuals that are  listed in this site.