Within a few decades, the old Middle Kingdom has worked its way up from a destitute country in the third world to the second largest economic power. This was achieved with a historically unique mixture of political centralism and a liberal market economy. Now the paradoxical model for success is reaching its limits. On the one hand, the regime is tightening the reins internally, on the other hand, there is concern in the traditional industrialized countries that a rather obscure competitor is growing over their heads.

Under Donald Trump, the US began imposing tariffs on trade with China and embargoes on companies like Huawei. In addition, a so-called China initiative by the Ministry of Justice placed any scientific cooperation between Chinese and American persons under suspicion of espionage. This nonsense was only ended under Joe Biden, after the professional world had protested violently and several falsely accused researchers had to be acquitted.

Nonetheless, the previously respectable percentage of articles with mixed US-Chinese authorship has fallen significantly. In view of this, the British journal Nature warns in an editorial against jeopardizing scientific cooperation with China – not only in basic research, but also with regard to disease control, species extinction and climate change.

What would be the consequences of cutting the West’s cord off China for the transition to a zero-carbon global economy? A team led by political scientist Michael R. Davidson from the University of California in San Diego investigated this.

According to the US Group, the consequences would be significant. China currently produces three-quarters of the world’s lithium-ion battery supply, two-thirds of solar cells and a significant proportion of wind turbine components. Trade in these “green” technology components is currently so closely interwoven internationally that real decoupling would hardly be feasible – or only if you accepted enormous investments in the tough development of national substitute industries and correspondingly higher product prices.

However, this would increase the relative attractiveness of fossil fuels, which one would like to get rid of. This in turn would affect developing countries in particular, which are particularly dependent on affordable environmental technology in order to achieve their climate goals.

The authors of the study weigh the disadvantages of distancing yourself from China against the risk of being too economically at the mercy of a powerful state whose domestic and foreign policies provoke international conflicts. In terms of energy dependency, however, green technologies are particularly advantageous because they are currently freeing their own country from fossil imports. One problem, however, is the protection of intellectual property from industrial espionage and patent infringement. This is less important for batteries and photovoltaics than for the development of “green steel”. It is certainly worth protecting this future technology, in the development of which the USA and the EU want to work closely together, from prying eyes.

In view of the tensions between China and the western world, some observers are drawn to comparisons with the Cold War. But in the days of the Soviet Union, the global economy was far less interconnected, and climate change was not an issue. Today, decoupling from China would amount to a painful amputation with an uncertain outcome.

Germany is making great strides towards the level of a third world country. At the same time, the state is taking more of its citizens’ income than ever before. Shouldn’t you at least ask for an explanation?

A couple from Dortmund is said to have to pay 17,000 euros in arrears for electricity. Those affected expect an error – but initially paid 700 euros a month. The electricity provider now wants to investigate the case. However, it is not assumed that there is an error in the electricity meter.

The original of this article “Environmental policy without China? Consequences would be enormous” comes from Spektrum.de.