GT Voice: China’s economic resilience underscored amid heat waves
Published: Jul 17, 2023 10:13 PM
Lujiazui Photo:VCG

Lujiazui Photo:VCG

An extreme heat wave is likely to be another major challenge facing the Chinese economy, which has been endeavoring to achieve coordination between climate change and the realistic tasks of economic and social development. To a certain extent, China's ability to maintain economic and social activities amid high temperatures is a microcosm of its economic resilience.

Like other parts of the Northern Hemisphere, China is expected to be sizzling through a brutal heat wave this summer, with temperatures already hitting record-breaking levels in some parts of the country. A remote township in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region experienced the country's highest-ever recorded temperature of 52.2 C on Sunday, according to Chinese media reports.

Moreover, the National Climate Centre said that China has recorded the largest number of days when the average temperature was 35 C or above this year through June since records began in 1961, and more heat waves could be expected in July and August when temperatures across most parts of the country will be as much as 2 degrees higher than usual.

Continuous high temperatures torture the power grid first, putting more pressure on economic and social production. What makes the task of preventing blackouts for people's livelihoods and industrial production even more challenging is that China still needs to work to meet the climate change targets it pledged. But the surprise is that China's performance far exceeds expectations.

While record high temperatures may have led to record demand for electricity, so far the stability of power supply in various regions has been generally guaranteed. This may be because the power sector is trying its best to maintain supply and avoid curbs, which were seen in previous years. Last week, CHN Energy Investment Group (CHN Energy), one of the world's largest generators of coal-fired power, said in a statement that its electricity generation hit a daily record of 4.09 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) on July 10, an increase of 210 million kWh from the day before and exceeding the previous record by 40 million kWh.

In the meantime, China's effective policies in terms of improving its energy mix and accelerating a green energy transition have helped relieve power supply pressure. 

China has become the world's largest and fastest-growing producer of renewable energy, adding more renewable energy capacity than the rest of the world combined. In 2022, China generated 46 percent more wind power than all of Europe, the second-largest wind market, according to data from think tank Ember. 

In 2021, China pledged to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in its primary energy consumption to around 25 percent, and bring China's total installed capacity of wind and solar power to over 1.2 billion kilowatts by 2030. 

Now with the current progress, observers believe that China may achieve the target earlier, in 2025.

If anything, these developments underpin China's efforts in tackling climate change. China has set a target of hitting peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060, and it always keeps its promises. Past years saw China actively incorporate a green low-carbon commitment into the domestic industrial policy to promote the optimization of the energy structure and energy efficiency.

China has shown determination in its green energy policy, and it has also made substantial progress in relevant technologies such as wind power, solar panels and electric vehicles. These steps have further contributed to achieving high-quality growth and energy security goals.

It can be said that China has adapted to the seemingly conflicting goals of ensuring energy security, economic growth and climate change by embarking on its own path of promoting a green energy transition. It is the ability to adjust and achieve goals under pressure that is where the Chinese economy's resilience lies.