Saving the Amazon will depend partly on China’s soya importers greening their supply chains, writes Ardash Vartparonian.
Major food importers from China can play an important role in the fight against deforestation by committing to supplying the domestic market with sustainably sourced products, but persuading them to deliver will be a big challenge.
More than ten big Chinese players in the international soya trade, who together account for a quarter of the country’s record 81.69 million tonnes of soybeans imported last year, indicated support for greening their supply chains at a symposium in Beijing recently. But they haven’t yet committed to verifiable action on using supply that has been certified as “forest friendly”.
The Beijing event, co-hosted by Sanhe, HopeFull Grain and Oil Group, was organised by the China Soybean Industry Association and included representatives from civil society group Solidaridad and the US-based Paulson Institute, which promotes sustainable development in China and the US.
Liu Denggao, executive vice president of the China Soybean Industry Association, said that soya imports from Latin America’s main exporter, Brazil, would likely rise, but emphasised that the crop should be sustainably sourced.
“We do not want our demand for soya to lead to illegal deforestation in Brazil, and we are asking our suppliers for assurance in that respect,” he said.
Growing demand for meat from China’s new middle classes is driving the growth in South American soya imports, which are used principally to feed livestock.
Due to limited arable land, pollution and drought, China has been forced to outsource and expand soya production, prompting Chinese soya imports to shoot up 14.4 per cent year-on-year in 2015. Brazil accounts for 49 per cent of the total, with 35 per cent coming from the US and 14 per cent from Argentina.
Commercial agriculture and deforestation account for 24 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but China signalling a market demand for sustainable products would help drive behavioural change among producers and exporters, the Paulson Institute said in a press release.
In March 2015 the Paulson Institute, Solidaridad, The Nature Conservancy, and WWF launched the China-South American Sustainable Soya Trade Platform, aiming to increase the proportion of soya sourced from Brazilian farmers registered with Brazil’s Rural Environmental Registry (CAR in Portuguese), part of Brazil’s Forest Code.
However, certification remains a big problem. The Brazilian government has struggled to monitor and enforce punishments for illegal land use, as the relationship between soya production and deforestation is complex. There is little transparency in international soya markets, and so it is very difficult for Chinese importers to work out whether their soya is coming from forest friendly sources or not.
But while there is much to do on both sides, the fact that big Chinese food importers have come together and shown a willingness to adopt more sustainable practices is a marked step forward, said Rose Niu, chief conservation officer at the Paulson Institute.
“We have a great opportunity to help China take a leadership role on greening global soya supply chains, something that is of increasing interest to the Chinese government and key importers,” Niu said.
Niu also highlighted the significance of former COFCO chairman Ning Gaoning’s declaration at the Paris climate summit in December last year that his company would ‘endorse and support’ farmers producing crops in environmentally friendly ways.
Along with COFCO, other top soya traders Jiusan Group, Hope Full Group, CP Group, Shandong Scents and Shengquan recently took part in a ‘soya industry fact-finding trip’ to Brazil to familiarise themselves with their South American suppliers.
Together, these companies accounted for 24.48 per cent of China’s total soya imports in 2015.
Besides encouraging major players from Chinese business to source legally and sustainably produced soya, consumers also have a role to play, Rose Niu said.
“This will be a long-term effort,” she told Diálogo Chino. “We need to work on raising awareness among the general public, so they understand better what they can do as consumers to help stop deforestation in Brazil and contribute to the global effort to fight climate change.”
Tumbling global commodity prices will likely sharpen companies’ focus on how they manage costs, but committing to sustainability could help them secure long-term supply chains and improve their reputations. A poor environmental record can cost companies dearly and lead to projects collapsing.
Liu underscored the importance of dialogue between producers and distributors: “China and Brazil are natural partners and have an important commercial relationship. Naturally we want closer relations and to know better the areas where the soya we import comes from.”
Users of China’s largest ride-hailing service visiting the U.S. can now call up cars courtesy of Lyft Inc., as the two startups strengthen an alliance intended to curtail Uber Technologies Inc.’s rapid global expansion.
Starting this week, any of Didi Kuaidi’s almost 300 million customers will be able to use the Chinese company’s app in the U.S. to access Lyft’s pool of private cars, they said in an e-mailed statement. In-app translation will help smooth language wrinkles, and they can pay via Chinese services Alipay and WeChat.
The reverse may soon become a reality. As early as this quarter, Lyft users may be able to use their apps to hail a taxi when in China, according to the statement. Didi and its San Francisco-based partner have been integrating services which span hundreds of cities across both countries and have now rolled out a trial version for the U.S.
“Just like any Internet product, the launch is on a phased schedule. Going forward, the opportunities are wide open,” Li Zijian, Didi’s senior director of international strategy, said by phone. “Didi will be offering its private cars and Lyft will be offering its equivalent to private cars.”
America is a popular destination for Chinese tourists, the most numerous on the planet. About 5 million people travel between the two countries every year, according to tourism bureau data that Didi cited.
First Fruit of Alliance
Lyft and Didi are testing what amounts to the first major initiative from a global push to fight Uber. The two have teamed with Southeast Asia’s Grab and India’s Ola. Didi itself is stockpiling cash for the battle ahead. China’s largest ride-hailing service raised the target on its latest round of funding to more than $1.5 billion, which could value the company at more than $20 billion, a person familiar with the matter has said.
Both Didi and Lyft will review their partnership on a regular basis to work out financial sharing arrangements and gauge its success.
“We’ve agreed to review it every few months and it’d be fair to say that by year’s end, we’ll have a review of the product, of the experience and of the business,” Li said.
Didi expects to be able to serve about 30 million riders daily by the year’s end. It has a wider range of services than its partners – customers can hail taxis, car-pool with drivers and even hop on buses. Its partner, Lyft, debuted car-pooling for the Bay Area in March.
“Going forward we have the Lyft Line and the Didi Hitch and other types like taxis” to offer, Li said.
China’s energy sector is lumbering under the weight of a coal power glut prompting the central government to step in, writes Feng Hao.
China’s central government has ordered local authorities to delay or cancel construction of new coal-fired power plants, as regulators attempt to reduce a glut in capacity, just one year after decisions were delegated to the provinces.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the National Energy Administration (NEA) have ordered a halt to construction of coal-fired plants in 13 provinces where capacity is already in surplus, including major coal producers such as Inner Mongolia, Shanxi and Shaanxi. A further 15 provinces will be required to delay construction of already-approved plants.
Harsh punishments have been threatened for construction that goes ahead in breach of the new regulations. Operating licenses will be denied, connection to the power grid blocked, and financial institutions will halt lending to transgressors.
The curbs come as Chinese government departments are asked to make rapid policy adjustments in response to slowing electricity demand, as the country shifts towards a less wasteful and less energy-intensive economy, and aims to reduce the amount of coal power generation.
China’s central government decided early last year to decentralise the authority to approve environmental impact assessments on coal projects starting from March 2015 onwards.
But the problem goes back further, say analysts, pointing to the Chinese economy’s addiction to debt-fuelled capital spending.
“The document shows the government has realised how serious the overcapacity issue is, and that decisive measures need to be taken to solve it,” Song Ranping, developing country climate action manager at the World Resources Institute (WRI), toldchinadialogue.
“The government now needs to make sure this is implemented and evaluate how successful the measures are, so that controls can be further tightened if necessary,” he added.
Central and local governments need to address issues such as oversupply at an earlier stage, Song said. He pointed to the need for an ‘early warning mechanism’ that flags up local decisions that exacerbate the surplus.
A clear price signal that a surplus of coal-fired power is uneconomic is lacking in China, because the country’s power tariffs are state controlled. That means energy producers still receive a good price despite the oversupply.
The communique issued last week by the NDRC and the NEA comes in the wake of announcements made at China’s twin legislative sessions in March and in the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan, which placed a strong emphasis on greener, smarter economic growth.
“Downside risks and vulnerabilities have risen, against the backdrop of volatile capital flows, a large drop of commodity prices, escalated geopolitical tensions,” reads the communiqué of the Group of 20 (G20) finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Shanghai, underlining the daunting challenges facing the world economy.
Indeed, the global economy is undergoing hard times. No country can stay unscathed when economies are increasingly intertwined in the era of globalisation.
According to recent data from Statistics SA, the growth rate of South African gross domestic product (GDP) fell to 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015 and overall growth fell from 1.5 percent to 1.3 percent. This year the growth is expected to further drop to less than 1 percent due to various unfavourable factors.
Despite such circumstances, we still have some good news – the economic ties between China and South Africa have been strengthened rather than undermined against headwinds.
More and more Chinese enterprises are seeking opportunities in South Africa. There are about 140 medium and large size Chinese companies in South Africa now, having invested more than $13 billion (R199bn) and created a total of 30 000 jobs.
Even in the past two years, Chinese direct investment to South Africa has kept on expanding. The assembly plant of China First Automotive Works (FAW) in Coega Industrial Park, the home appliance factory of Hisense Group, and the cement production line invested by Hebei Jidong Development Group, among others, have offered much-needed jobs for local people.
Meanwhile, most of the Chinese enterprises actively shoulder corporate social responsibility by providing training to local unskilled workers and donating to charities and green groups.
The two governments have also strengthened co-operation on human resource development. Last year China gave training to more than 400 artisans, technicians and managers for South Africa.
What’s more exciting is that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to South Africa in December has added more impetus to bilateral economic co-operation.
More than 20 agreements worth billions of dollars were signed at the Union Buildings, including a dozen co-operation agreements achieved by enterprises from both countries in the areas of finance, energy, automobiles, infrastructure and so on.
Although it is obvious China-South Africa economic co-operation enjoys a bright future, the speculations and doubts never stop emerging. For example, recently I often hear the rhetoric of “collapsing Chinese economy”, which misinterprets the Chinese economy’s real situation.
Undoubtedly, China’s growth is slower when compared with the past. However, against the world economic difficulties, it is by no means a small achievement to realise a growth rate of 6.9 percent on the basis of more than $10 trillion GDP, especially given the world’s average growth of only slightly more than 3 percent.
For decades, China has been one of the strongest engines of world economic development. In 2015 China added more than 25 percent to global growth and its demand for global products is still significant.
Last year China remained the world’s second-largest import country. The volume of commodities China imported has kept growing. During the same period, China’s direct investment to the rest of world has further expanded to $127.6bn, an increase of 10 percent on a year-on-year basis.
Recent volatility of yuan renminbi and fluctuations in the Chinese stock market have also caused concern of some analysts and become the focus of media.
To understand the issue, the point is that the fundamentals of China’s economy remain strong and Chinese policymakers still have plenty of policy tools to address the downward pressure, if at all.
China’s currency depreciation is mainly due to reforms to the yuan exchange rate formation mechanism. China has no intention to boost exports and obtain competitive advantages by devaluing its currency, neither does the yuan have any foundation of further depreciation.
Last year, the Chinese trade surplus reached almost $600bn and China still has $3.3 trillion in foreign reserves. Furthermore, with the yuan being put into the special drawing rights basket by the International Monetary Fund last year, the market is expected to enlarge its demand, which will further contribute to the stability of the currency.
The fluctuations of China’s stock market, together with similar scenes in bourses of other countries, reflect the unclear and generally pessimistic prospects of the world economy. The long-term stability could be seen from the fact that the Shanghai composite index always stayed around 3 000 points at the end of 2013, 2014 and 2015. It is true that China’s stock market is still a developing and relatively immature market and has its own problems to be addressed. But with value only accounting for roughly 60 percent of China’s total GDP, it will not significantly harm the whole real economy.
Looking ahead, the strongest driving force of China’s economic growth will be the ‘reform dividends’ from the annual sessions of Chinese National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference currently being held in Beijing. The 13th Five-year Plan and the supply-side reform, along with other comprehensive reform measures, aimed at achieving innovative, co-ordinated, green, open and shared development, will be discussed and implemented in broad spectrum. All of these will add vitality to China’s economy.
China has both the courage and ability to break the old development pattern and transform to an innovation-driven and consumption-driven economy.
South Africa is also exploring new growth areas and making its economy more sustainable and inclusive. Reforms are never easy.
For the two economies, which are both in crucial and difficult transition, the only way out lies in sharing experience and deepening practical co-operation in areas such as industrialisation, agriculture, infrastructure and trade.
Let us work together hand in hand to achieve our goals.
A more than twenty-five fold jump in investment in fewer than 10 years. That’s how fast China is gaining control over Africa’s mining industry. And Beijing’s push is not ending any time soon.
China’s growing economy is thirsty for sustainable supplies of mineral resources. Despite beingthe number one mining nation in the world, China is facing a rapid depletion of its local mineral resources. Reserves-to-production (R/P) ratio that represents the “burn rate” of proven reserves of mineral commodities when applying current levels of domestic mine production shows that China is in the “red zone” for future supplies of nearly all crucial minerals (Figure 1).
Figure 1. R/P (“burn rate”) ratio for China in comparison to world average R/P, years. Sources: compilation of USGS, BP, country and other reports.
In order to overcome shortages of essential mineral commodities, as well as to secure long-term sustainable supplies for its ambitious economic development strategy, the Government of China empowered and encouraged a number of domestic state-owned and private companies to actively pursue mining deals throughout the world.
Since this strategy, also known as “Two Resources, Two Markets”, launched in 2006, Africa quickly became the most desirable region for China and Hong Kong-based companies hunting for mining deals globally.
The scale of China’s expansion in Africa is just a mind blowing. In less than 10 years since Chinese authorities called for mineral resources diversification globally, the number of major mining/mineral processing assets in Africa with China-headquartered companies interest, increased from only a handful in 2006 to more than one hundred and twenty in 2015 (Figure 2). And those are only assets in advanced stages of their development, i.e. the figures exclude early exploration and other greenfield projects.
Figure 2. Evolution of major mining/mineral processing assets in Africa with China-based companies’ interest, cumulative numbers. Source: IntelligenceMine.
Keeping in mind that many of China-Africa deals are not always made public, an adjusted number of China-controlled mining assets in Africa could be even more impressive.
From the regional point of view, Chinese companies became firmly anchored to the Southern African countries and now quickly spreading to the north from Equator (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Countries in Africa, where mining interest of China-based companies exists, evolution from 2006 to 2015.
A wide variety of corporate entities have contributed to this formidable expansion, including mining, mineral processing, metallurgical, manufacturing, power generation, infrastructure development companies, as well as investment banks, research institutes and even individuals.
The forms of mining deals that China employs in Africa are also very diverse and involve direct investments in mining projects, infrastructure investments–to-mineral resources “trade-in” deals, joint ventures, indirect investments, off-take agreements, options and a variety of other structures.
These examples give some insight into the vast scope of China’s involvement in Africa’s resources and mining industry.
In 2012, China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) acquired Husab project in Namibia (Figure 4), which is one of the biggest uranium deposits in the world, and now is finishing construction of a huge uranium mine there. In under three years since earthmoving activities first began at Husab, CGNPC built and is now commissioning the world’s third largest uranium mine.
Another notable project is a massive Kamoa copper deposit located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is recognized as the world’s biggest undeveloped high-grade copper deposit. Zijin Mining Group recently completed a half a billion dollars deal with Ivanhoe Mines that allows Zijin to control this advanced project. No doubt Zijin, which is not lacking of governmental funds and in-house mining expertise, is going to commission this mine as soon as possible.
Figure 4. Husab and Kamoa projects location. Source: IntelligenceMine online mapper.
There are a many more world-class mining assets located in Africa acquired by Chinese companies in recent years.
Why has Africa became a priority destination for China? First and foremost, it’s the continent’s rich endowment of mineral resources with many world-class deposits discovered in recent years. Secondly its untapped mineral resources provides excellent greenfield development potential.
- South Africa produces 52% of world’s chromium, is the world leader in production of manganese and platinum group metals, controlling about 95% of global PGM reserves. It is also the biggest producer of ilmenite, second biggest producer of vanadium and in Top-5 of global rutile and zirconium producers. South Africa is also a renowned producer of gold and controls world’s largest in-situ gold reserves.
- Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) produces approximately 50% of global cobalt and hosts about half of global reserves. DRC is also in top-5 producers of copper, diamond and tantalum (second place).
- Botswana is the global leader in diamond production by value and in top-5 of other gemstones’ producers.
- Guinea is in top-5 of biggest bauxite producers, being the world leader in bauxite reserves.
- Zimbabwe is the fifth biggest producer of lithium and in top-5 of world’s largest PGM producers.
- Morocco is the second biggest producer of phosphates and controls 75% of global phosphate reserves.
- Mozambique is in the top-5 global producers of tantalum, ilmenite and zirconium.
- Rwanda is the leader in production of tantalum.
Western companies have tended to be more cautious about investing on the continent which is still grappling with serious infrastructure deficiencies, political turmoil, weak institutions and corruption.
Chinese companies have shown greater tolerance for risk and have proven to be adept at navigating political and economic upheaval. Not least because the country’s mining majors enjoy the firm backing of the government in Beijing and the country is able to take a long term strategic view.
In recent years, African countries increased output of nearly all major mineral commodities (except PGMs) as this table shows. With the backing of China, do not expect the pace of development to slow any time soon.
China and South Africa signed deals totalling $6.5bn during President Xi’s four-day tour of the country last week.
Among the agreements is a $2.5bn loan to Transnet, South Africa’s state-owned rail operator, and a $500m loan for the Eskom, the hard pressed state power company, for nuclear co-operation.
The loans will also be used to buy Chinese made mechanical and electrical equipment.
During the visit Xi sought to reassure his hosts that China would still act as the prime mover for Africa’s economies, both in terms of investment and as a market for African raw materials.
“China and South Africa are large developing countries and emerging markets, and we are good friends and good brothers who understand and support each other with equality and mutual trust, comprehensive cooperation, win-win reciprocity and common development,” Xi said, according to a communiqué from the Chinese embassy in South Africa.
The recent slowing of the Chinese economy, and a fall of 40% in Chinese investment in the first half of the year has caused concern in Africa.
Earlier in the week, Xi visited Zimbabwe, a stop that resulted in the signing of 10 economic agreements, including the expansion of the southern African nation’s largest thermal power plant.
Isolated from the west, Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe has turned to China for investment in transport, power and water. Now the China’s Export Import Bank has agreed to provide more than $1bn for a 600MW expansion of Hwange thermal power station, to be undertaken by China’s Sinohydro.
The funding is the final element of the $1.5bn deal, which was agreed in principle in October last year.
PRETORIA, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) — Foreign ministers from African countries on Thursday said bilateral ties with China have a promising future given the political goodwill and sincerity from both sides.
The foreign ministers whom spoke to Xinhua on the sidelines of the 6th ministerial conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Pretoria, South Africa said Beijing will be a critical partner in the endeavor to accelerate Africa’s socio-economic transformation.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended the ministerial conference that was a precursor to the FOCAC Heads of State summit to be held in Johannesburg from Friday to Saturday.
African foreign ministers who attended the forum emphasized that strong bilateral cooperation with China is key to achieve long-term growth and shared prosperity in the continent.
In her opening remarks, South African Minister for international relations and cooperation, Nkoana Mashabane, said that Sino-Africa cooperation has evolved to cover issues that address poverty alleviation, peace, security, health and ecosystems protection.
“Our relationship with China has addressed major issues ranging from education, health, tourism and infrastructure development. Ours is a true friendship that has stood the test of time,” Mashabane remarked.
She added that China’s involvement was crucial to help African countries realize the UN sustainable development goals and the African Union’s agenda 2063.
The blossoming Sino-Africa cooperation provides a durable solution to the continent’s endemic challenges like poverty, infrastructure and skills gap alongside an under-developed industrial sector.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that China’s assistance was crucial to boost industrialization in Africa.
“We have a nascent industrial sector and require China’s help in areas like capacity development and technology transfer to enable us establish industrial parks,” said Ghebreyesus.
He added that China’s model of rapid economic transformation in the last two decades was an inspiration to African states aspiring to transition from agrarian to industrial powerhouses.
“We can borrow China’s best practices like manpower development and harnessing of innovations to drive industrial growth,” Ghebreyesus told Xinhua.
The landmark FOCAC summit to be held in Johannesburg will strengthen Sino-Africa bilateral cooperation in strategic areas like industry, infrastructure development, energy and cultural exchanges.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said that China is a critical ally that will help African countries realize peaceful and inclusive development.
“There is no question China is an important ally for the African continent. The country has global influence and FOCAC summit presents us an opportunity to review our friendship with Beijing,” Mushikiwabo remarked.
She was upbeat Sino-Africa cooperation will be elevated to new heights in order to help address the continent’s pressing challenges.
“We look forward to major undertakings between China and Africa. We expect China to help us develop infrastructure and link up the continent,” Mushikiwabo told Xinhua.
The theme of the sixth FOCAC summit to be held for the first time in the Africa is in tandem with the continent’s ambition to realize prosperity, peace and cohesion.
Somali Foreign Minister Abdusalam Omer said the landmark summit will lay a strong foundation for future cooperation with China.
“Our expectations for the FOCAC summit are high. We expect China and African countries to come up with a blueprint to guide future development of this continent,” Omer remarked.
He added that in future, Sino-Africa cooperation should focus on development of modern infrastructure alongside social amenities like education and health.
The 1st International Mountain Tourism Conference was held in Xingyi City of Southwestern China’s Guizhou Province.
GUIZHOU, China–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The 1st International Mountain Tourism Conference was held in Xingyi City of Southwestern China’s Guizhou Province on Oct 10th, 2015. The conference was co-hosted by the National Tourism Administration of China, the State General Administration of Sports of China and the Guizhou People’s Provincial Government under the theme of “Mountain Tourism, Green Sports, Mutual Development”. The grand event gathered 800 attendees from 39 different countries.
At the opening ceremony, the attendees agreed on “The Declaration of the 1st International Mountain Tourism” and called for further exploration of the local culture, history, religion and national attractions.
“Mountain is the most beautiful scenery in Guizhou. With the improvement of the infrastructures, a variety of mountain resources is becoming increasingly valuable,” said Chen Min’er, the Governor of Guizhou Province. “The development of Mountain Tourism holds great significance for the economic growth and transformation of tourism industry in Guizhou.”
In order to accelerate the progress of Guizhou’s tourism industry, the conference invited famous international travel agency experts to conduct some discussions on the topics of the ecological sustainable development of mountain tourism, mountain tourism & consumption investment, beautiful countryside, mountain travel & outdoor leisure sports. Besides, the conference also demonstrated the big data construction achievements in Guizhou’s tourism, and started the online platform for Guizhou mountain tourism to provide data support for the transformation of tourism in Guizhou.
Other activities included Guizhou province Non-material Cultural Heritage Exhibition, International Base Challenge, and International Walking Conference, showing the mountain tourism resources and folk culture to the world and providing a high-end communication platform for international tourism and mountain tourism destinations.
As the hosting province, Guizhou will also take this opportunity to accelerate various tourism projects, including the upgrade of a number of scenic spots, and development of rural tourism, mountain sports, transportation, hospitality and supporting services.
China beckons to 53 scholarship recipients, who have landed an opportunity to study in the eastern nation. They were excited about the chance, they said at a pre-departure orientation yesterday at Unisa (University of South Africa) in Pretoria.The Department of Higher Education and Training receives scholarships from various foreign governments that are targeted at South African youth to advance the skills development agenda.
Time of possibility
Kgaugelo Mpyana said he was looking forward to his degree in architecture at the Beijing University of Technology.”This is a great opportunity for me because China is the generation of great innovation,” he said. “I will get an opportunity to learn from the best at no cost at all.”Ofentse Tyawo was thrilled that her dreams to study in China were finally being realised. She will be studying an undergraduate in biological sciences at East China University.Both students will also do a year-long Mandarin course, as well as learn more about Chinese culture.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime; grab it with both hands,” advised Higher Education and Training Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana. “We are proud that you have been selected and that you have shown bravery because it’s not an easy decision to make to go study abroad.”He encouraged students to represent South Africa well in China. “Respect the cultural norms and values of China; make sure that you adjust to them.”Li Song, China’s deputy ambassador to South Africa, congratulated the scholarship recipients and thanked them for choosing to study in his country. “I believe that through their hard work, these young talents will come back and contribute to the rainbow nation after their successful completion of their studies in China,” Song said.”South Africa has the most overseas Chinese students in Africa,” he added. There were 1 100 South African students studying in China and more than 2 400 Chinese students studying in South Africa.More than 180 applications were received for the scholarships.
Fully electric doubledecker bus with new compact battery to launch in autumn, as London prepares for ultra low emission zone, reports China Daily
For years, London’s red doubledecker buses have dominated the capital, where nearly 1,000 routes are operated by 8,700 buses, many of them doubledeckers. Although there has been a gradual move to hybrid vehicles, many are still diesel-powered.
This will all change in October, when the world’s first pure electric zero-emission doubledecker bus, designed and built by Chinese automotive manufacturer BYD, will enter service in London.
The electric doubledecker bus represents a technology breakthrough in public transportation, said Isbrand Ho, managing director of BYD Auto Europe.
“In the past, electric vehicle manufacturers have produced electric buses with three batteries – at the vehicle’s front, back and top – but this design would not work with the doubledecker bus. BYD’s advanced technology is able to make the batteries more compact, so the battery on top of the bus is no longer required,” he said.
“London has the most dense population in Europe and has the highest visibility of doubledecker buses. London is replacing 700 to 800 doubledecker buses every year, so there is a big market.”
According to Ho, the inspiration to supply doubledecker buses to London came about two years ago when Wang Chuanfu, chairman of BYD, met with London mayor Boris Johnson.
“Boris Johnson said to our chairman, ‘If you can make it, I will buy it’.
“Actually, electric cars came before gasoline cars, but because of the weakness of the batteries, gasoline cars became more successful. But now is the time for electric cars to take over gasoline cars,” Ho said, explaining that the environmental benefit and the fuel cost savings of electric vehicles give them a distinct advantage.
Denis Naberezhnykh, the head of ultra-low emission vehicle and intelligent transportation system technology at the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory, praised BYD’s achievement.
“Until now, fully electric doubledecker buses have been considered unfeasible. This is mainly due to the competing requirements for battery space and passenger capacity,” Naberezhnykh said.
He says unlike their single-decker counterparts, doubledecker buses in London typically cannot accommodate batteries on the roof due to the height limits of the vehicle.
“A purely electric doubledecker bus not only provides further options for the electrification of London’s bus fleet, but with growing pressure to improve air quality in cities and the impending introduction of the ultra low emission zone in London, it provides another way of reducing emissions,” Naberezhnykh said. The zone is set to launch by 2020.
“Over the next few years, we can expect to see a growing shift toward the electrification of public transport vehicles, as we seek to reduce air pollutants in urban centres and improve local air quality. Ensuring that these vehicles are able to operate the demanding duty cycles without excessive charging time requirements will be a vital factor in accelerating this shift.”
London has already introduced hybrid buses in a bid to reduce the environmental impact of public transport.
The latest development is the New Routemaster bus, designed by English designer Thomas Heatherwick, which is 15% more fuel efficient than the existing hybrid buses and 40% more efficient than conventional diesel doubledeckers.
The first New Routemaster vehicles, nicknamed “Boris buses” after the mayor of London, began service on a limited number of routes in 2012, and it is planned that more than 600 of the buses will enter passenger service by 2016.
BYD chose London for the launch of the all-electric doubledecker bus because of the vehicle’s iconic significance, but the same technology can be applied to many other markets, including European markets such as Germany and Asian markets such as Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.
Many of these markets would require localisation of design to suit customer needs, for example, with regards to wheelchair access, but the core technology of battery, control system and electric drivetrain would all be the same, according to Ho.
The first batch of BYD doubledecker buses will consist of five vehicles, all manufactured in China. Ho says BYD will explore the possibility of local manufacturing if the quantity supplied increases.
BYD won’t disclose the cost of the buses, explaining that it is highly dependent on customer specifications and volume, but says the electric buses can help save about 70% of the costs of fuel, producing long-term savings.
The latest New Routemaster costs £325,000 each, compared with £200,000 for an existing hybrid vehicle, according to the mayor’s office.
“For a bus, the largest part of the cost is actually the fuel, so over the long term electric vehicles can give a big cost saving effect,” Ho says.
The main challenge for electric buses is the lack of charging points, as is the case with other electric vehicles, because the technology is still relatively new, he says.
His team is working with Metroline, the London bus operator, to install charging infrastructure at bus depots, and is providing guidance on how to install the charging points, where to install them, what type of power requirements are needed. The company has invited Metroline engineers to China to see similar facilities.
Two years ago, BYD supplied two single-decker buses to the London bus operator Go-Ahead, which are still in use. BYD also helped Go-Ahead with installing the charging points.
The charging points are installed at bus depots, where the buses are parked at night, so the way the buses operate during the day is not affected. Most bus routes can be serviced for a full day on a single charge, needing only four hours to recharge during the night, using cheaper off-peak electricity, he says.
Founded in Shenzhen in 2003, BYD is already a leader in electric vehicles in both its domestic and international markets.
Ho says in Europe the company hopes to focus on the commercial vehicle market first, producing buses and taxis, because these vehicles can reach a wider user base and help BYD to build up a brand in Europe.
BYD has supplied vehicles to many countries, including Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, the UK and Spain. Its European headquarters is in the Netherlands.
Looking ahead, Ho is optimistic about growth in the use of electric vehicles in Europe, because cities are becoming increasingly densely populated with many people preferring to live in the city, creating a big demand on public transport.
Meanwhile, the environmental credentials of the electric vehicles is also a big contributor to this trend, as European cities move increasingly to reduce pollution, he says.
According to China’s ministry of industry and information technology, some 19,000 plug-in electric cars, buses and trucks were produced in China in May. The International Energy Agency says China ranks third on the list of countries using pure electric cars, with 80,000 sold since 2008.