Eco-Advantage Blog

November 20, 2006 | Andrew Winston | Jump to: Comments (0) | Post A Comment

China, A Terrifying Opportunity

Some stories over the past few days tell an interesting tale. First, as Thomas Friedman has been sounding the alarm, twice in the last 5 days (here and here), China’s environmental problems are a serious threat to its own growth, and to the entire world. A long piece in the NY Times this weekend described the torrid growth around the Yellow river and the repercussions for the environment and for growth prospects in this region.

Yes, all of this is a bit scary, and not just from an environmental perspective. The world is depending on China’s growth to fuel entire industries (not to mention to fund our American lifestyle since the U.S. borrows so many billions from the Chinese). But companies are seeing the opportunity here. Today, G.M. said it would shift to selling more smaller cars in Asia. Good idea. Trouble is, they’re way behind the Japanese automakers. As the Times said,

Toyota, Honda and Nissan are all strong in producing small cars, having competed in this segment in Japan, where fuel prices are high and gas mileage has long been a more important selling point than in the United States. All three of Japan’s main automakers are expanding rapidly in China, which is likely to increase the pressure on G.M.

But G.M. has the right idea. It’s going to be up to companies to solve the big problems — especially given the end of international climate talks, for now, without much progress. The need for business to innovate and solve environmental problems is clearest in China. The giant has abundant problems — water shortages, water quality issues, air quality, energy needs — which smart companies from all over the world are going to be rushing to solve. And they better…we all are depending on it.

 

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