By David Pfohl, NorCap Staff Intern
1. Green Energy
China is the largest green energy investor in the world. Alternative energy in the forms of solar and wind power expansion have hit record levels, with the government’s goal of making clean energy account for 15% of total energy use by 2020 easily attainable.
Nicknamed ‘the Green Leap Forward’, (a play on Mao’s Great Leap Forward), the grassroots green energy industry and state-promoted alternative energy industry are taking off.
In February 2008, the CCP enacted the Green IPO policy, which required companies in polluting industries to undergo an environmental audit. As a direct result, the energy industry in China is rapidly shifting from its past dependency on coal to more alternative energy sources.
According to a plan by the Beijing Development and Reform Commission (BDRC), Beijing will replace 5.5 million tons of standard coal with alternative energy before 2015 to account for 6% of Beijing’s electricity consumption. The plan has led to the construction of photovoltaic and ground-mounted solar projects across various districts in Beijing.
In a city more heavily dominated by the consumption of coal, the increase in alternative and green energy use is a welcome change and will provide future Beijing residents with healthier and more cost-effective lifestyles. Furthermore, last March (2011) China signed its 12th 5-year plan, which supports foreign investment in the arena of environment protection; accordingly, we should expect to see a shift from infrastructure development to more “green” initiatves.
Beijing is an architect’s dream. With the world’s largest palace, the Forbidden City is not only visually arresting, but also incredibly well preserved. The city also boasts some of the more creative buildings built in the last decade, including the 2008 Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium and Water Cube, as well as the seemingly physics-defying CCTV tower. The National Centre for the Performing Arts, located southwest of Tiananmen Square, appears to be an egg made of titanium and glass, as it floats on a man-made lake. The city manages to maintain a welcomed balance between old and new structures, such as traditional hutongs surrounded by new state-of-the-art office buildings. The Beijing skyline is also a wonder to behold.
Beijing is also the center of a powerful and expanding film industry. Famous directors, particularly Zhang Yimou, the director of Raise the Red Lantern (1991), Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004) see great promise in the future of Chinese films.
Yimou’s most recent film, the Flowers of War (2011), starring Academy-Award winner, Christian Bale, shows the future potential for China’s film industry to become mainstream. The presence of one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in his latest film is indicative of the close ties that have developed between the Beijing film industry and Hollywood. Several US companies, including Legendary Entertainment, which co-financed Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, have struck joint venture deals with Chinese-owned media groups to ensure their films qualify as Chinese-made productions. Due to a strict quota system on the number of foreign films allowed to release in China every year, these joint venture deals guarantee the distribution of foreign films in China.
Beijing is also a growing city for non-profit organizations. The city enjoys the presence of larger and more recognized non-profits, such as Greenpeace: East Asia, the National Resources Defense Council, Teach for China and Operation Smile. Teach for China, a partner of Teach For All, is an organization that recruits, selects, trains, and supports outstanding US and Chinese graduates to work side-by-side to deliver an excellent education in high poverty, rural Chinese communities.
Beijing is also home to non-profits that focus on building the relationship between China and the United States. Project Pengyou, a non-governmental social venture, serves to build the alumni network of President Obama’s 100,000 Strong Initiative in order to promote US-China relations. Project Pengyou is a program of the Golden Bridges Foundation, a non-profit organization that pioneers excellence in social entrepreneurship and philanthropy between China and the United States.
The metropolis also has many smaller and more localized non-profits including Beijing Community Dinner, Chi Fan for Charity, Roundabout Charity Distribution Store and others. The Lasso Guide to Charity in China is an organization that puts those interested in touch with their favorite charities and non-profits and is an excellent resource for finding out more about local charities in Beijing.
As for Chinese charities, despite the June 2011 Guo Meimei scandal, in which a blogger claiming to work for China’s Red Cross was seen flaunting exorbitant wealth, organizations have made a concerted effort in recent months to improve their transparency. According to Forbes China, transparency has improved and two Beijing-based non-profits top the list of top 25 most transparent non-profits in China: YouChange, a China Social Entrepreneur Foundation, which gives grants to existing projects; and the Chinese Red Cross Foundation, which is making efforts to rebuild public faith in donations through the use of a fund management tracking system.
Beijing is an international metropolis with a thriving art culture. 798 District, Beijing’s own ‘SoHo’, not only houses some of China’s most creative and recognized artists, it also features a rich array of galleries, exhibits, restaurants, cafes and event spaces. Many of the galleries are managed by some of the most famous names in the art world today.
A decade ago, 798 faced an uncertain future due to government censorship. Once 798’s enemy, censorship has eased to allow everything from nudity to controversial abstract art. What was once cultural taboo in China under antiquated CCP rulings is now more tolerated, and time has proven a strong testament to the longevity of the district. The Chinese government has even begun investing money into the area as a tourist destination in order to prove to the world the rise of Beijing as an international and affluent city rich in culture.
Beijing is also home to Ai Weiwei, China’s most recognized contemporary artist, famous for his controversial art and design of Beijing’s 2008 Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium. Ai Weiwei lives in Caochangdi, a small village on the outskirts of Beijing that features many artistic complexes that Ai designed himself. The area features a burgeoning number of contemporary artists as well. For more information on Ai Weiwei, as well as trouble he has faced with Chinese authorities over his controversial artwork, see NorCap’s previous blog posting: Even $2.4 Million Fines Will Not Silence Ai Weiwei.
References and Further Reading:
The Green Leap Forward - The Green Leap Forward Homepage
China releases first new energy plan for 2015 - Steel Price China
Learn from EU energy ‘road map’ - Xinhua
Lasso Guide to Charity in China - Lasso Guide to Charity in China Homepage
Getting involved in the nonprofit community in Beijing - NGOs in China
Beijing’s 798 District an unexpected artistic enclave - Travel Weekly
The avant-garde art goes too far? - China Daily
798 Space - 798 Space Homepage
Beijing Architectural Wonders - China Travel Depot
Filmed in China - IBN Live
Teach for China