Teams of Rivals: China, the U.S., and the Race to Develop Technologies for a Sustainable Energy Future

42 Pages Posted: 15 May 2015

See all articles by Edward Steinfeld

Edward Steinfeld

Brown University - Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Date Written: April 20, 2015

Abstract

Despite sharing a common interest in addressing climate change, when it comes to commercializing technologies for sustainable energy use, China and the United States are locked in rancor. The prevailing American view is that Chinese firms, rather than innovating, compete on the basis of mimicry, technology theft, and government subsidization. This paper, while not denying the evidence for technology duplication, illuminates three additional aspects of empirical reality: Chinese industrial innovation; multidirectional learning between Chinese and non-Chinese technology firms; and complementary, tiered development across Chinese and advanced industrial commercial innovators. The existence of these cross-border collaborative phenomena, while not invalidating the additional reality of inter-state commercial rivalry, suggests that such rivalry is neither structurally determined nor all pervasive. Extensive evidence of firm-level collaboration challenges the idea that climate remediation is necessarily impeded by a structurally-determined, geopolitically-driven “tragedy of the commons.”

Keywords: China, United States, climate change, technology, innovation, industry, energy, wind, solar, nuclear, PV, trade, sustainability, industrial policy, development

Suggested Citation

Steinfeld, Edward, Teams of Rivals: China, the U.S., and the Race to Develop Technologies for a Sustainable Energy Future (April 20, 2015). Watson Institute for International Studies Research Paper No. 2015-26. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2606000 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2606000

Edward Steinfeld (Contact Author)

Brown University - Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs ( email )

111 Thayer Street
Box 1970
Providence, RI 02912-1970
United States

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