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Home / World / As officials scrambled to achieve energy goals, China turned off the lights in the “Christmas Town”

As officials scrambled to achieve energy goals, China turned off the lights in the “Christmas Town”

But because the local authorities turned off the lights, production almost stopped in mid-December.

Ma Hairu, who works for a manufacturer that produces paper decorations during Christmas and New Year, said his factory is trying to meet demand because they can only work for half a day. He said: “We have a lot of orders, but there is not enough time to complete them.”

Officials in Zhejiang Province, China are striving to meet the five-year energy consumption target set by the central government, which will expire on December 31. Earlier this month, a local directive instructed companies to stop elevators below the third floor and only use heating when the outside temperature is below 3 degrees Celsius (37 degrees Fahrenheit).

“No shortage of electricity [in Zhejiang]. Some parts of the province have taken measures on their own to restrict electricity consumption in order to save energy and reduce emissions. “The Secretary-General of the National Development and Reform Commission Zhao Chenxin said.

Efforts to reduce energy consumption have destroyed millions of lives. In Yiwu, a city with one million people, even though the daytime temperature is about 1

0 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit), the heating systems in offices, shopping malls, schools and hospitals are still closed.

According to notices from local residents and the government, even the street lights were extinguished, and drivers and pedestrians fumbled in the dark.Nearby cities also ban heating Wenzhou Home of over 9 million people, According to the local government.
China needs an economic revolution to realize Xi Jinping’s ambitious climate agenda

Zhejiang’s sudden reduction in electricity consumption highlights the strength and traps of China’s political system. Although the Communist Party can make ambitious commitments to cut carbon emissions, the vigorous implementation of the targets may pay a price to the people who ultimately benefit them.

“Tough Year”

The power restriction in Yiwu first attracted attention last week, when photos and videos of dark streets began to circulate on Chinese social media.
On China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform, Yiwu residents complained that street lights were turned off and had to drive home in the dark of traffic chaos. The topic quickly attracted people’s attention, and as of Wednesday, it attracted 120 million visits and posted thousands of comments.
Yiwu residents drove in the dark and the street lights were turned off to save energy.

Some people accused the Yiwu government of ticking a political report card at the expense of public safety.

After strong online opposition, officials turned on some lights again. A government hotline operator told CNN on Wednesday: “The lights have only been turned off for a few days. Now most of the lights have been turned on.”

But other restrictions still exist. Yin Mingfei, the manager of a cafe in a shopping center in the city’s central business district, said the heating has been turned off for nearly two weeks and the electronic advertising billboards and escalators are not working.

A receptionist at the Yiwu Central Hospital said that the heating in public areas had been turned off and she had to wear extra clothes to keep warm. On Weibo, office workers complained about shaking at their desks.

The city’s factories and workshops had already been hit by the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, and when they received a large number of orders, they were ordered to reduce or stop production.

Yiwu has won the reputation of Santa Claus

For Liu Lei, December is the busiest time of the year. He and his wife opened a small workshop in the suburbs of Yiwu to prepare red envelopes for the Lunar New Year.But he was ordered to work for two days and take two days off until the end of the year Save electricity.

“Of course it affects [on my business] Big. Liu said: “The order for red envelopes is hot, but I can’t do it, so I have to refuse.”

Goal-oriented political culture

There have been similar disputes in the past-on a larger scale, even months. In 2010, the last year of China’s “Eleventh Five-Year Plan”, Zhejiang and six other provinces introduced measures to restrict electricity consumption.

According to media reports at the time, some factories started production as early as July of that year, restricted or stopped production in energy-intensive factories, and prohibited air conditioning in offices and schools.
Since coming to power, Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched a “pollution war” to redouble his efforts to free the country from dependence on coal. As of 2019, coal still accounts for nearly 60% of China’s energy consumption. Recently, President Obama made an ambitious promise that China will become a carbon neutral country by 2060.
In winter, the Chinese capital Beijing is often filled with dense fog.
However, these well-intentioned efforts sometimes suffer from poor planning and aggressive deployment. In 2017, a large-scale renovation campaign converted winter heating in northern China from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas. Some residents and villagers shivered in freezing temperatures because local officials banned gas stoves or stabilized natural gas supply Up coal.

Trey McArver, a partner at Beijing-based consulting firm Trivium, said: “This is common in China. This is the result of a goal-oriented political culture.”

Without democratic elections, most Chinese officials would climb the political career ladder in a performance-based evaluation system, in which economic growth, social stability, and increasing environmental protection as the goals play an important role in their promotion opportunities.

Under Xi Jinping’s authoritarian rule, local officials are under greater pressure-suppressed by the central government-to meet Beijing’s policy goals, such as those set out in China’s five-year plan.

Thick smoke from a large steel plant in Inner Mongolia, China.
In September, after energy consumption and intensity exceeded the limits set by the “13th Five-Year Plan”, the National Development and Reform Commission convened officials from Inner Mongolia to discuss the “serious problems” facing its energy conservation situation.

The five-year plan is the legacy of China’s economic command during Mao Zedong’s era. These highest-level policy blueprints set out the country’s social and economic development goals for a period of time in the future. The 13th Five-Year Plan covers 2016 to 2020.

Competition goal

Require Zhejiang to reduce energy intensity (the amount of energy produced per unit of economic output) by 17% According to the blueprint of the “13th Five-Year” energy saving plan, compared with 2015 Promulgated by the State Council of China.

The province only allows the consumption of coal equivalent to 23.8 million tons It will be higher than 2015 levels by 2020, but there are signs that it is used too much.

According to a notice issued by the Zhejiang Provincial Development and Reform Commission in 2019, Zhejiang Province consumed 87% of its additional energy quota in the first three years of the plan.
In October, the central government sent an investigation team to Zhejiang to evaluate its use. According to the Zhejiang Provincial Development and Reform Commission, the task force instructed Zhejiang to “do its best” to achieve its goals.

Consultant McCaffer said that the problem with goals is that officials often have to face more than one person, and they don’t always complement each other. He said: “The final battle to achieve these goals here is because local officials have so far focused on other goals,” he said, such as GDP growth, employment and government revenue.

After the coronavirus lockdown, China's steel production surged.

Analysts said that the shutdown due to the coronavirus initially helped achieve emission targets, but the economic recovery enthusiasm made it shrink. Li Shuo, Greenpeace’s senior climate policy adviser in East Asia, said that China has recovered rapidly from the pandemic and relies heavily on energy-intensive heavy industries.

Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at the Energy and Clean Air Research Center, wrote in an analysis report that the surge in steel production has prompted a rebound in China’s carbon emissions after the decline during the coronavirus lockdown.

For manufacturers in Yiwu, orders surged after the summer and output rebounded. But this proved to be short-lived.

Jack Ma, who makes and sells holiday decorations, said this has been a particularly difficult year for business, first because of the pandemic, and now because of power restrictions.

He said: “Our previous income exceeded 1 million yuan (US$150,000), but because of all the disruptions this year, we really don’t know how much money we can make.”

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