This is a pertinent question in many ways. After parking your car at P3 and plopping down in your airplane seat some time and many a check later, you know you will set foot on Chinese soil some 12 hours later. Add to that the difference in time, temperature and humidity and the instant China experience will pop right back in hard. China remains a faraway land!
Once you land at Shanghai Pudong International airport, another series of checks and security drills begins that take a little longer and are clearly more stringent than on the Dutch side. Combined with the information provided for your visa about your entire belongings, it all adds to a feeling that you are entering a country, a society, a culture with different rules, different magnitudes and different dynamics. Surveillance and science-fiction-like high-tech go hand-in-hand here. In this, China goes very far!
Traveling through endless urban agglomerations, a mix of old-fashioned industriousness passes by in a futuristic cityscape of large-scale economic and urban planning progress. In short, see the mini sales stalls and simple "hedge trimmers" amidst an expanding concrete jungle full of immense construction cranes and under construction roads, bridges and high-rise buildings. The economic growth and accompanying technological developments are more than visible. And the not (immediately) visible leaps forward will certainly be no less impressive. State-of-the-art technology is all around and is driving this society to leading positions in many areas. So far they are!
The reason for my recent trip and stay in China is such a new leap forward, or rather, a new leap seaward. As with all economic developments, China's central government has made a strategic decision and, in doing so, has drawn up an ambitious multi-year plan for a large number of offshore wind farms. And when China takes a leap, it is usually a giant leap. So too here: President Xi Jinping wants China to become the largest offshore wind country worldwide, and analysts predict this will be a reality as early as 2021. By that year, China will have nearly 11 GW (11,000 MW!!) of installed offshore wind farms, knocking the UK (10.4 GW by 2021) off its throne. Despite grand ambitions of the UK (30 GW by 2030), this country is very quickly losing ground to China with a current rollout of 2 GW per year and from 2024 some 4 GW per year. If these Chinese plans become reality then towards 2030 almost half of the world's offshore wind capacity will be off the Chinese coast. That's how far China will be!
In one week, together with a 20-member delegation, I visited the coastal provinces of Jiangsu and Guangdong, where the centers of gravity of offshore wind developments lie - for now and the further future. I was along now as a representative of our region with the asset of Eemshaven, widely recognized in the North Sea region as a highly developed offshore wind hub. The purpose of such a mission is, together with some representatives of the Dutch government and a group of Dutch companies from the offshore wind supply chain, to convince the Chinese market of our knowledge and skills in this relatively young sector. The week was therefore filled from morning to evening with a large number of company visits to wind turbine manufacturers, seaports and wind farm developers (read: the big Chinese energy companies). In addition, we had organized two Sino-Dutch Seminars with invited Chinese parties in cooperation with the Dutch consulates. The finale of the week was our presence at the two-day Global Offshore Wind Summit in Yangjiang. At this well-attended conference, I had the opportunity to tell the offshore wind story of the Northern Netherlands in a presentation and panel discussion for a room with several hundred listeners, accompanied by impressive pictures from Eemshaven. Eemshaven big picture in China - China can be that close!
And why all this effort over afar? The companies traveling along obviously all want to 'trade' to get a piece of the imposing market opportunity that lies there. The Dutch government is facilitating this and in doing so is firmly establishing our country as a country where the offshore wind sector, and especially the 'offshore side' of this industry, has developed in a short period of time into a very experienced and mature sector with a convincing track record. That the Chinese offshore wind supply chain is still fairly at the beginning of the learning curve became clear after the many talks and presentations. Ambitions and plans are one thing, but there is reasonable doubt as to whether they will achieve this at the high pace outlined. Is China far enough along?
And within this market opportunity I 'sell' our region with its specialized offshore wind supply chain including a well-equipped port. This with the aim and expectation of being top of mind with Chinese wind turbine manufacturers should they wish to sell their products on the European market in the future. From where can they do that nowhere better .....? That's how close China comes!
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