In April 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping stated at the Leaders’ Summit on
Climate that “China will strictly control coal-fired power generation projects, as
well as strictly limit the increase in coal consumption over the 14th Five-Year
Plan period [2021-2025] and phase it down in the 15th Five-Year Plan period
Xi is chewing on those remarks this year.
Five-year plans are the core rules that outline China’s economic goals,
development programmes, and general changes for the next five years. Since
1953, they have defined China’s growth path.
However, barely over a year into the 14th Five-Year Plan, which Xi Jinping is
believed to have specified, China has been forced to change its declared
direction in the issue of coal and coal-fired power plants.
Han Wenxiu, deputy head of the Office of the Central Finance and Economic
Commission, stated that during the draft phase of the plan, Xi “personally made
modifications and approved the text and has put in a significant amount of
efforts on it.”
So it’s an unavoidable conclusion that Xi is aware that he over-promised China’s
ability to transition away from coal in 2021.
Indeed, contrary to Xi’s April 2021 declaration that China would “strictly limit
the increase in coal consumption over the 14th Five-Year Plan period,” China
announced in April of this year that it was adding 300 million tonnes of coal
mining capacity to its already world-record holding production levels.
China is not just the world’s greatest consumer of coal; it is also the world’s top
producer, extracting over 4 billion tonnes of coal in 2021.
Not only has coal mining capacity increased this year, but China has also
approved the construction of 8.63 gigatonnes (GW) of new coal-fired power
plants between January and March 2022, according to Greenpeace’s Beijing
According to the environmental organisation, that new capacity in little over
three months is equal to over half – 46 percent – of the total additional capacity
permitted in 2021.
According to Wu Jinghan, a climate and energy campaigner in Greenpeace East
Asia’s Beijing office, the rise in coal is linked to a new wave of rhetoric
stressing energy security. “Instead of a steady source of energy, energy security
has become a code phrase for coal.” Ironically, China’s “energy dilemma
occurred in part because of China’s reliance on coal,” Wu noted. Despite this,
government messaging on ‘energy security’ has risen… The coal industry looks
to be resuming full operation.”
When China stated in September 2021 that it would no longer finance coal-fired
power stations outside of China, most of the globe was shocked and even
Before reading too much into that policy, interested parties should read the
whole of the 14th Five-Year Plan, which covers China’s growth strategy until 2025.
With its October 30, 2020 title, “China Moves to Technology SelfSufficiency,”
the South China Morning Post simply characterised the
overarching topic of China’s present plan.
From China’s perspective, self – sufficiency, which is a type of economic
isolationism, is the only safe and secure way to reach its next set of growth
goals. China, for example, aspires to construct advanced semiconductor
facilities to reduce its reliance on foreign sources, particularly because Beijing
has political issues with several of these suppliers, including the United States
But how will that extra technical capability be powered? China has coal, and
they want to exploit it by constructing coal-fired power plants.
Coal is mentioned 23 times in China’s 14th Five-Year Plan. Many of those
occurrences reflect growth, rise, and ease of access. “We will encourage the
growth of Caofeidian Port’s coal transportation capacity,” “promote the flexible
refitting of coal-fired power plants,” and “enhance cross-regional transportation
channels and coal collecting and distribution systems,” to name a few examples.
According to the proposal, “intelligent upgrading” of coal mines would be
In less developed regions, such as Xinjiang, which has caused China enormous
reputational damage in recent years due to its policies of forced internment and
re-education of Uyghur and other Muslim minorities, the plan supports
“Xinjiang’s construction of the national ‘three bases and one channel'” project,
which refers to the construction of “a large-scale coal, coal-fired electricity, and
calcification industry base,” among other non-renewed energy facilities.
In comparison to coal, the 14th Five-Year Plan mentions “technology” 69 times,
“technical” 25 times, and the S&T acronym for Science & Technology 79 times.
On a purely factual level, it is evident where China’s priority is.
The Chinese leadership, like politicians in democracies, will make strong
remarks for opportune political reasons at the moment. (They are, nonetheless, a
little more cautious than Western politicians.) Democracies often retire their
legislators through the ballot box. Purges are common under autocracies.)
Earlier comments that resulted in inflated pledges to reduce coal consumption
and work toward emissions reductions might be interpreted as attempts to
appease foreign and local opponents of China’s coal use at the time.
It goes without saying that the plan’s designers understood where the emphasis
was all along, and it wasn’t on reducing coal consumption, which will fuel the
plan’s principal agenda: technical dominance, self-sufficiency, security, and,
most importantly, protection from the Chinese