Interview: Australian experts call for collaboration with China on digitization, sustainable development

Updated: November 15, 2023 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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by Matthew Goss, Zhang Jianhua and Zhang Na

CANBERRA, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- Australian experts have called for working with China and neighbors in the Asia-Pacific to promote sustainable development and a digital economy.

In interviews with Xinhua, experts from top Australian universities praised China's world-leading green sustainable development, saying Australia could benefit from collaborations in the area.

Warwick Powell, adjunct professor at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), told Xinhua that the digitalization of global economies and an emphasis on environmental sustainability will be two of the biggest economic growth drivers over the next 20 years and that China is leading the way in both.

"Australia and China have potentially numerous crossover points where they can collaborate and leverage the capacities and resources that each side brings," Powell told Xinhua Tuesday.

A report published by the Global Energy Monitor, a U.S.-based NGO, in June found that China is on track to produce 1,200 gigawatts (GW) of energy through wind and solar power by 2025, reaching its 2030 goal five years early and making the country the world leader in renewable power.

Statistics published by China's National Energy Administration (NEA) in May revealed China installed 48.31 GW of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in the first four months of 2023.

By comparison, according to data from the Australian Photovoltaic Institute (APVI) Australia's total PV capacity as of the end of September 2023 was 32.9 GW.

Despite experts believing Australia and Pacific nations could benefit from collaborating with China, Jane Golley, a Chinese economy expert from the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University (ANU), told Xinhua on Tuesday that unfortunately, such cooperation has become more difficult nowadays.

The geoeconomic competition will limit the prospects for digital and green transformations across the Asia-Pacific region, at exactly the time when more cooperation is needed, Golley, an executive member of the Australia-China Business Council, said.

Since the Labor Party was elected to government in May 2022, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has repeatedly stated his aim to make Australia a renewable energy "superpower", citing the global shift to clean energy as the country's biggest economic opportunity.

In September, he committed to accelerating Australia's transition to low emissions and in late October announced a 2-billion-Australian dollar (1.29-billion-U.S. dollar) expansion in critical minerals financing.

The Australian government classifies 26 resource commodities as critical minerals, including cobalt, lithium, rare-earth elements and titanium, which are used to manufacture mobile phones, computers, solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles (EVs) and rechargeable batteries.

According to the Department of Industry, Science and Resources, Australia is home to some of the largest recoverable deposits of critical minerals in the world.

Paul Burke, head of the Arndt-Corden Department of Economics at ANU's College of Asia and the Pacific, said that by cooperating with China on renewable energy adoption targets, Australia and its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific could reap significant benefits.

"A key need is to rapidly switch from coal and other fossil fuels to zero-emission technologies such as solar and wind power," he told Xinhua on Tuesday.

"China has been rapidly adopting solar and wind power and could play an important role in helping to promote clean technology diffusion in the region."

In 2022, 35 percent of all EVs that were exported globally were built in China, according to data released by the U.S. Center for Strategic and Internal Studies (CSIS) in September, up from 25 percent in 2021.

In contrast, the IEA's annual Global EV Outlook for 2023, published in April, found that EVs made up 14 percent of all new car sales globally in 2022, an increase of more than 50 percent from 2021 but only 3.8 percent of new vehicle sales in Australia.

Patrick Xue from the East Asian Bureau of Economic Research at ANU said China's booming EV and solar panel production could be major factors in regional green sustainable development.

These are the perspectives and areas where China can further contribute to the green and sustainable development of the Asia-Pacific region, in the context of promoting green sustainable development cooperation under the existing multilateral organizational structure, Xue told Xinhua.

Editor: Gao Jingyan