Telecommunications: Primacy of Power and Regulatory Battles for Promoting National Standards - Part 7

The scarcity of natural resources, especially energy, raw materials, and water, to support such a huge population and rapid economic growth is increasingly a serious challenge to China. The country is the second largest importer of oil in the world, only after the United States. China today makes 35% of the world's steel, half of the world's cement and flat glass, and about one third of world's aluminium. It overtook Japan in 2006 as the second largest producer of cars and trucks after the United States. Consequently, since 2007 it has become the largest greenhouse gas emitter. Hundreds of thousands die every year because of pollution-related diseases. Half of its rivers and lakes are polluted and nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water (Kahn & Yardley, 2007). Facing both domestic challenges and external pressure, Chinese leaders have switched its policy priorities from “sustained development” to “sustainable development” and from pursuing “GDP growth” to “green GDP growth.” Needless to say, innovation and indigenous standards will play a large part in achieving this new policy goal.

Sixth, after 30 years' remarkable economic growth (on average 10% annual GDP growth), China has visibly increased its technological capacity. The new interest in standards grows out of China's unique position in the international economy. The total output of Chinese manufacturing has ranked fourth in the world and has earned China a new image as the “world's factory.” However, the Chinese government rejects this title by arguing that without innovation and key technologies, China stays at the lower end of the production chain and at most is “an assembling unit within the world factory” (Chinese News Net, 2005). Indeed, China's technological capabilities have increased hand in hand with its production capacity. However, in important respects, it has yet to emerge as a significant force for innovation globally and thus continues to be in a subordinate position vis-à-vis global industry leaders. In recent years China has devised some technical standards warranting international attention but which it has largely failed to commercialize. Besides the well publicized WLAN Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI), China is also developing several other important standards in areas as diverse as the new Internet Protocol IPV6, and a new digital audio standard AVS, EVD — the successor of the DVD as well as its own microprocessor, the “Dragon Chip.” However, Beijing's own assessment reveals that its industries' technological level and ability in self-dependent innovation are still low (People's Daily, 2005).

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