Rebalancing China’s Energy Strategy

January 6, 2015 Damien Ma

Written by Damien Ma, a Fellow at the Paulson Institute and co-author of the book In Line Behind a Billion People (FT Press, 2014), this inaugural paper is a scene setter that provides a comprehensive overview of China’s energy strategies, policies, choices, and tradeoffs. It is a first-rate survey of China’s underlying energy challenges, and frames the exciting series of additional papers to come. These papers will focus on such diverse topics as China’s shale gas development and the changing economics of Chinese energy.

Ma’s paper frames and examines the current state of China’s energy structure and some of the existing proposals to reshape its energy landscape through 2020. Subsequent papers in this series will focus on various aspects of China’s energy and environmental conundrum, providing analyses of different sectors and technologies or offering diverse views on policies that are germane to the major energy-related issues that China faces. His paper does not offer specific prescriptions or solutions, but rather lays out the core elements of China’s energy strategy now and into the near future.

Ma argues that Chinese policy is premised on an understanding of the gravity of the country’s energy and environmental woes—and that Beijing is confronting these with a sense of urgency. But, he says, any assessment of what Beijing can achieve in the medium term needs to be tempered by a realistic understanding of the fact that economic growth, and therefore energy demand growth, still needs to continue for decades. And it is not yet clear whether a more consumption-driven Chinese economy—one that has been rebalanced away from a growth model premised on investment in fixed assets and exports toward domestic consumption and higher-quality growth—will help to facilitate an energy transition or simply alter the character of China’s energy consumption.

About the Author

Damien Ma

Fellow, Paulson Institute

author

Damien Ma is Fellow and Associate Director of the Think Tank at the Paulson Institute, focused on investment and policy programs and leads on various research projects and activities. He is the co-author of the book, In Line Behind a Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China’s Ascent in the Next Decade. He is the editor of The Economics of Air Pollution in China by Ma Jun, the chief economist of the Chinese central bank. He currently also serves as an adjunct lecturer at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Previously, Ma was a China and Mongolia Senior Analyst at Eurasia Group, the political risk research and advisory firm. He specialized in analyzing the intersection between Chinese policies and markets, with a particular focus on energy and commodities, industrial policy, elite politics, US-China relations, and social policies. His advisory and analytical work served a range of clients from institutional investors and multinational corporations to the US government. Prior to joining Eurasia Group, he was a manager of publications at the US-China Business Council in Washington, DC. He also worked in public relations firm H-Line Ogilvy in Beijing, where he served major multinational clients.

In addition, Ma has published widely, including in the The Atlantic online, New York Times, Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, and Bloomberg, among others. He has also appeared in a range of broadcast media such as the Charlie Rose Show, BBC, NPR, and CNBC. He also served as an adjunct instructor at Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington, DC.

Ma is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and was named a “99under33” foreign policy leader in 2012 by the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese.