While Donald Trump makes petty, feckless threats of trade war with China, our Chinese friends are forging actual long-term industrial policy that seismically shift global trade. Specifically, the Chinese are working on a plan to get rid of combustion-engine automobiles and get a billion Chinese consumers crusing around in electric cars:
Xin Guobin, the vice minister of industry and information technology, said the government is working with other regulators on a timetable to end production and sales. The move will have a profound impact on the environment and growth of China’s auto industry, Xin said at an auto forum in Tianjin on Saturday.
A ban on combustion-engine vehicles will help push both local and global automakers to shift toward electric vehicles, a carrot-and-stick approach that could boost sales of energy-efficient cars and trucks and reduce air pollution while serving the strategic goal of cutting oil imports. The government offers generous subsidies to makers of new-energy vehicles. It also plans to require automakers to earn enough credits or buy them from competitors with a surplus under a new cap-and-trade program for fuel economy and emissions [“China to Ban Sale of Fossil Fuel Cars in Electric Vehicle Push,” Bloomberg, 2017.09.09].
China registered more than twice as many electric cars as the United States in 2016. We have chosen an occupant of the White House who not lacks a plan for encouraging the development of new automotive technology to meet this demand but seems determined to keep the United States mired in fossil-fuel addiction while other nations take the lead in transportation and energy technology.