CE05 - Une énergie durable, propre, sûre et efficace

Energy Transition in China: New Political and Economical Directions – TEChNOPE

TEChNOPE: Energy Transition in China

Based on the hypothesis that the modalities of the energy transition are highly dependent on the national context and that the energy transition is a geographical process that raises the question of territory, the TEChNOPE research project aims to characterize the Chinese energy transition, in an interdisciplinary approach, mixing economy, politics and urban planning (13 member researchers), and this on three geographical scales: national, provincial and urban.

Major objectives

In order to address environmental degradation and reduce its energy dependence, China has started an energy transition (ET) process, which is based on both improving energy efficiency and developing renewable and decarbonated energy. <br /> <br />The TEChNOPE project aims to characterize this ET process on three geographical scales. <br />At the national level, this transition will be analysed with particular attention to the economic policies (environmental, energy, industrial and innovation) introduced by the Chinese authorities. Are the central authorities carrying out a «real« overhaul of the energy system in favour of the environment, or do other strategic objectives predominate? <br />At the provincial level, this ET is influenced by regional contingencies but also by other scales. How do central-provincial governance and growing urbanization modulate this ET? <br />At the urban level, Chinese ET is manifested by a particular attention to the problem of daily mobility related to urban form and the development of energy-efficient urbanization. <br /> <br />Finally, in a more cross-cutting manner, it should be noted that taking these three geographical scales into account does not consist in simply juxtaposing analyses of three types of action systems, but rather in understanding how the Chinese ET model is the product of the dynamic - if not unstable - relations that are built up between these three scales. We therefore take up the basic presuppositions of multi-level governance approaches. Is Chinese ET the result of an activism of cities and/or an impulse from the central state?

The TEChNOPE project is based on a multidisciplinary approach. It mobilises both the theories of these three disciplines (economics, political science and urban planning) and empirical tools (plan studies, econometric methods or surveys via field studies).

TEChNOPE aims first and foremost to produce new knowledge (publications and national and international communications), but also to build an interdisciplinary SHS research network specializing in Chinese studies. The transfer of knowledge to civil society (dissemination to local authorities, support for the Bordeaux Urban Forum, photo exhibition) is also one of the expected results.

By focusing on China, this project adopts as its research ground one of the most emblematic countries of environmental change. Not only has China become the world's largest energy consumer, but it has been implementing increasingly proactive climate-energy policies since the early 2000s. Given China's economic, political and environmental weight, this project has both a national and an international perspective.

This project contributes to the state of the art, still very partial, on the characterization of China's energy transition from three geographical scales.It should help advance French-speaking research on China in this field

1. Pouyanne G., Guilhot L., Meunié A. (2018) L'usage de l'automobile et la structure spatiale en Chine : le modèle de ville compacte en question, Région et Développement, n°48-2018, p.105-120, (HCERES C, CNRS 4 et Econlit).

Direction éditoriale du numéro spécial de la revue Mondes en Développement, intitulé « Transition énergétique chinoise : enjeux économiques et urbains », n°192, 4ème trimestre 2020 dont 4 des 5 articles du numéro sont réalisés par des membres du projet ANR

1. Guilhot L., Meunié A., Pouyanne G. (2020) Chine : la Longue Marche vers la transition énergétique, Mondes en développement, vol 4, n°192.

2. Berthaud P., Fontana Y. (2020) Transition énergétique et développement de la Chine. L’absorption du surplus de travail comme condition de soutenabilité environnementale, Mondes en développement, vol 4, n°192.

3. Romano G. (2020) Poursuivre le développement durable dans une ville chinoise. L’Etat local chinois et l’incertitude : un aperçu à partir du cas de Yangzhou, Mondes en développement, vol 4, n°192.

4. Douay N. (2020) Urbanisme et transition énergétique à Hong Kong, Mondes en développement, vol 4, n°192.

In China, the economic growth of the last twenty years has resulted in a sharp rise in energy demand, making the country the largest consumer in the world. Because of an energy mix dominated by the use of coal and a growing democratization of the automobile, the Chinese economy has to face not only a risk of increased dependence on fossil fuels, but also that of a considerable increase in pollution, leading to the repetition of "airpocalypse" episodes which Chinese cities are already accustomed to.

Energetic and ecologic topics have been more and more important in political concerns. The recent five-year plans have supported the necessity to secure energetic provisioning by reducing fossil energy use, and to reduce pollutant emissions by developing low carbon industries. Thus, China is nowadays world leader in solar and wind energy supplying, and invests great amounts in research and innovation for energy purposes.

Considering the hypothesis under which China has entered in an energy transition process, the TEChNOPE project aims at characterizing the Chinese energy transition thanks to an interdisciplinary approach (12-member team of scholars whose topics are political economy, environmental economics, urban economics, political science and town planning). As the energy transition is a territorial question, the Chinese energy transition (CET) will be studied at three different geographical levels.
At the national level, the CET will be analysed by paying attention to the economic policies (environmental, energy, industrial and innovation) established by the central authorities. The analyses of environmental and energy policies, the technological positioning of China in the energy domain, as well as its role in the international climate negotiations are the main elements to understand whether authorities would change the energy system.
At the regional (province) level, the CET can be understood in its whole diversity. By identifying common tendencies, but also main differences between regions, it can be put into evidence different regional trajectories towards energy transition, as well as their determinants.
At the urban level, the CET puts the question of « the fabric of the city ». First, some recent urban transformations fear for a sharp increase in energy needs for transport, which leads us to analyse, in a specific and understudied context, the link between urban form and daily mobility. Second, the emphasis on « eco-cities » leads to study the way such a concept has adapted to the specific Chinese urban framework and culture.

In a more transversal way, the question of articulation of the scales of governance will be the subject of a particular attention. In China, central power is strong, but the inferior levels manage its directives and objectives. It draws an original multi-level governance, which implies to better understand whether the CET is a product of the dynamic relations that are built between these three scales.

TEChNOPE aims before all at producing new knowledge (international publications and communications, but also the set-up of an interdisciplinary research network on Chinese studies), but also at transferring this knowledge towards the civil society.

Project coordinator


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 122,364 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: November 2018 - 36 Months

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