Not too many people know that Oakland, a port city, is a sister city with Dalian, China's 3rd largest port.
[Dalian (near Korea) is located quite close to where Japan destroyed the Russian fleet in 1905 at what was called Port Arthur, the northern most ice-free, strategically important port in what was then Manchuria. Today, Dalian is home to 4-5 MM people, the site of major new Intel fab plant, plus a major software park with tenants like IBM, HP, British Telecom, Citibank and with ambitious plans to compete with Bangalore. ]
Likewise, not too many people know that California and Jiangsu Province, 1 hour west of Shanghai, are also sisters.
[Nanjing, site of mass killings during WWII and once China's capital, is Jiangsu's capital and Suzhou is known for silk products, canals, and gardens. "Heaven is above, but on earth there is Suzhou and Hangzhou," another nearby city.] Suzhou is now known more for booming Singapore-Suzhou industrial park, home to companies like Delphi, AMD, cosmetics and, unfortunately, polluted canals. More on Jiangsu.
I know a bit about Suzhou because when I had just arrived in China, a complete greenhorn, a new Chinese friend took me on a bicycle trip - past the unversity, past the endless crowds, road building, dust and construction cranes, past the relatively tranquil, orderly industrial park and finally to a lake on the city's edge. To her, this was a nature break from a hot, noisy, teaming city to a place where you could see the (polluted) sky. To me, it reminicent of teenage bicycle rides to the New Jersey meadowlands, on 'oasis' of tall weeds, with unfettered polluted swamps, surrounded industrial New Jersey but yes, you could also see "sky."
At the very edge of Suzhou, by a lake, on a bicycle, in 2003, I began to count the high voltage lines converging, from every direction. "Power - a lot of power," it looked like industrial New Jersey.
Just a few months later in southeastern China, I talked to a Hong Kong businessman whose mainland factory had closed for the day. "There is no electricity." In 2003, like a thin hyper-active teenager, China could not seem to get enough power.
China - always a paradox to westerners - is a country in vast transition, a place where you can see "all the continents - the best of North America and Europe in parts of Shanghai; and the poverty of Africa in the countryside". China is filled with energy efficiency ( no kitchen ovens, wearing coats in-door, bicycles, "sun-dried" clothing, ubiquitous elevator-free 7 story residential buildings, almost no "to go" food, hot water "only on demand" systems) and energy inefficiency (buses belching clouds of black smoke, cold or unheated libraries and classrooms where students insist on an open window for "fresh air", insulation so poor that "To heat up your room in Shanghai, you first need to heat up all of Shanghai" and new portable electric heaters, crumpling State Owned Enterprises in need of captial, technology and new ideas, kept alive solely to prevent thousands from becoming unemployed.)
The "new China" began in 1949. What we see now is the "new, new China"; one which changes daily and a generation is 5 years. A place where for decades but 1 bridge spanned a river, now adjacent to one or even two new ones simultaneously under construction.
"We don't have time to plan everything. We have to build a new building as fast as we can; and then we must build another one - right away. We are behind and we need to catchup, " one Government official told me.
Just as California has led the way in US efficiency, with policies to keep electricity use per capita flat or to reduce automobile pollution, so too California has lead the way in engaging China.
In following posts, I will attempt to outline some of groups working with China and write about California's October 2009 agreement with Jiangsu Province, an important "sub-national" agreement. Universities or NGOs like the China Energy Group at Lawrence Berkeley Lab (LBL) or NGO Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have been in China for years and done extraordinary work below the 'radar screen.'
I also want to follow developments at the national level: China-US Energy Clean Energy Council (CERC), announced during President Obama's Beijing visit in November, 2009. And along the way, I want to try to answer the question, "Why help China with energy and energy-efficiency?", which I believe is very important that Americans consider.