GREEN INNOVATION IN CHINA: CHINA’S WIND POWER INDUSTRY AND THE GLOBAL TRANSITION TO A LOW CARBON ECONOMY, by Joanna I. Lewis

Reviewed by Kathleen Araújo, Harvard University

In this book, Joanna Lewis, provides a detailed account of China’s role in the global climate change situation and the innovative measures they are taking towards a greener future.

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Green Innovation in China: China’s Wind Power Industry and the Global Transition to a Low Carbon Economy, by Joanna I. Lewis, Columbia University Press, 2013, 304 pp.

Recent international challenges, like the global recession and sovereign debt crises, may have caused some people to miss a subtle, but important development – China has become a leader in “newer” forms of renewable energy. The Asian energy technology latecomer (widely known for installing one coal-fired power plant a week) has created top-ranked wind and solar energy industries in recent years, leading some national policy-makers from other countries to ask how their own domestic efforts to do the same could be so quickly outpaced. In her book, Green Innovation in China, Georgetown University Professor of Science, Technology and International Affairs Joanna Lewis begins to answer this question by examining the rise of the Chinese wind industry.

In a well-researched argument, Lewis makes the case that China is becoming a hub for global innovation with domestic and foreign wind technology firms. Drawing upon interviews, policy documents, and energy data, she details the way in which China transformed itself from a country with no real experience in wind turbine manufacturing to one which can produce state-of-the-art wind technology systems and now leads in cumulative installed wind capacity. Acknowledging that conventional indicators, like R&D spending or patents, can be insufficient to capture the science and technology learning dynamics in play, she argues that licensing and government policy support were critical. She also includes discussion of issues like trade secrets, quality control, and slow grid connection, then speculates that intellectual property rights will probably become more important to Chinese companies as they becomes increasingly vested in wind technology exports. As a China policy consultant and scholar, Lewis brings an unusual, embedded perspective to her closing evaluation of competition and cooperation between the United States and China – the world’s largest energy consumers, greenhouse gas emitters, and economies.

While this book is accessible to a broad audience, it will be particularly valuable for policymakers and industry decision-makers interested in emergent technology markets. Broader questions about the efficacy of the World Trade Organization or debates about China’s role in global technology transfer leave ample room for a sequel. For now, though, those wanting to deepen their understanding of green jobs measures, intellectual property issues in emergent technology markets, or strategic partnering with China will not want to miss what Lewis has to say.


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