It’s believed by some that China is headed for world dominance, but the country’s leadership can be awfully uncomfortable about being top dog.
On Tuesday, China rushed to deny findings by the International Energy Agency that it has overtaken the U.S. as the world’s largest energy consumer years ahead of earlier projections. “By our calculation, the U.S. was still the world’s largest energy user in 2009 [although] China was the largest primary energy producer,” Zeng Yachuan told Dow Jones Newswires.
Why is China reluctant to accept this crown? After all, it’s already acknowledged as the world’s leading source of carbon dioxide — the overwhelming bulk of which comes from burning coal in power plants and factories. It’s on track to surpass Japan this year as the world’s second largest economy after the U.S.
It’s already the world’s biggest car market and has the world’s biggest population. A big economy with lots of people and more new cars and a rising middle class snapping up air conditioners and refrigerators adds up to a lot more kilojoules sooner or later.
It isn’t the first time China has appeared somewhat sheepish about its global ascension. China’s National Bureau of Statistics in the past has been slow to acknowledge China’s rise up the global GDP rankings. And last year, when some U.S. scholars raised the idea of the world’s two most important powers meeting to coordinate policy in a “Group of Two,” Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao quickly shot down the idea.
The reluctance appears to flow from fear that China will be burdened with the responsibility of global leadership before it feels it is ready. Certainly, China’s emergence as the world’s top energy consumer is happening under very different circumstances than that of the U.S....MORE