Harnessing the Green Dragon

By By Fraser Mendel October 21, 2009


Green business. Alternative energy. Recycling. These mantras of sustainability have become key policy goals in China. As part of its broader efforts to move the Chinese economy toward sustainable practices, earlier this year the Chinese government introduced a new law promoting sustainability. Considering Washington state’s relative proximity to China and the strong bonds our state and federally elected officials have built during the past several decades with that country, local businesses that have clean and green products and services to sell are uniquely positioned to take advantage of these new opportunities.

China’s central government drafted a national development plan in 2006 that placed energy and natural resource conservation and sound environmental practices at its core. One aspect of the plan resulted in the enactment of the Circular Economy Promotion Law, which took effect Jan. 1 this year. Broadly, the new law mandates that Chinese enterprises reduce resource use, recycle waste products and generally employ sustainable development practices.

All levels of government will be required to establish planning, assessment and examination procedures to promote sustainable economic activities. These new mandates should create opportunities at the local, provincial and national levels in China for companies that have “green” products or services as government officials strive to meet these sustainability goals.

The new law identifies industries critical to success in creating a sustainable economy. These sectors include architecture and construction, energy production, mining, agriculture, vehicle manufacture and forestry-industries in which many Washington firms have competitive advantages. Potential future regulations include desalination mandates for coastal regions, recycled content rules for manufacturers, restrictions on single-use disposable goods, provisions mandating sustainable timber harvests, improved sewage treatment and the use of biofuels-all areas in which many Washington companies have cutting-edge technologies.

Sustainability in China remains a work in progress. In the coming months, the government will publish catalogs that will provide detailed guidance under the new law on items subject to mandatory recycling, and which will list encouraged, restricted and prohibited techniques, equipment, materials and products. These catalogs will provide the roadmap for companies with products and services in these business arenas.

Creating a sustainable economy is important for the Chinese government as it struggles to address resource needs, pollution problems and water-related challenges. Washington state businesses with green technologies should be planning strategies now for taking their goods and services to China. The first steps include making sure the technologies are properly protected, followed by additional steps to get foreign products to market-working through distributors, setting up subsidiaries on the ground or licensing others to maximize these emerging opportunities. Like any business venture, there is no guarantee of success-but with China’s continued strong economic growth and the government’s emphasis on adopting sustainable technologies and practices, Washington businesses have a unique opportunity to capitalize on these trends.

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