From Polluter To Green Hub

(AP Photo )
China surpassed the United States as the world's largest polluter two years ago. Protests over coal mining erupt regularly across the country. And walking around Beijing or Shenzhen can be like lighting an unfiltered Camel with a flaming stick.

But, strangely enough, green technologies are emerging as China's first homegrown brands and many will set up shop in the U.S. In case you missed it:

• Last month, a joint venture between Shenyang Power Group, U.S. Renewable Energy Group and Cielo Wind Power announced plans to build a $1.5 billion, 600-megawatt wind farm in Texas. China's A-Power Generation will provide the wind turbines and a Chinese bank will provide financing. Jinxiang Lu is CEO of both Shenyang and A-Power.

• After Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) complained that the project would lead to 2,800 jobs in China and 240 in the U.S., A-Power announced it would build a factory in the U.S. that would employ 1,000.

Duke Energy Generation Services announced it has teamed up with ENN, a sprawling Chinese conglomerate that employs 24,0000 people, to build and operate solar power plants. Although the two companies ultimately will likely try to land mega-contracts in China, they will initially bid on projects in the U.S.

Suntech Power Holdings wants to build a factory in Arizona to assemble solar modules, those big pieces of glass containing solar cells that sit on roofs. Last year, it formed a joint venture called Gemini Solar Development to build solar power plants in the U.S.: Texas' Austin Energy has signed with them. Five Chinese solar companies, including Suntech, have opened U.S. headquarters in San Francisco in the last two years.

Coda Automotive, which plans to sell all-electric cars next year, raised $24 million in July from investors like former Treasury Secretary Henry "Give Me Liberty or Give me $787 Billion" Paulson and Thomas "Mack" McLarty, the former chief of staff for Bill Clinton. Coda's car and battery were designed and will be manufactured in China. A former Goldman Sachs guy serves as CEO.

It's an impressive achievement. To date, Chinese companies have almost exclusively served here as anonymous contract manufacturers. Many though that China's first big U.S. brand name would come in electronics, but it's a mixed story. Haier signed marketing deals with the NBA and opened a fancy product showcase in New York, but it's still mostly known for its dorm fridges and air conditioners: Samsung's design team can rest easy. Lenovo (formerly Legend) became a worldwide brand name computer manufacturer, but it did so by buying IBM's PC unit.

Compare that to Suntech. In 2002, the company was an asterisk in solar. Now, it is one of the largest, most closely followed brands in the market and CEO Zhegrong Shi is often the star speaker at conferences in Europe, Asia and the U.S. For China, it's more than market share. Green tech is bringing respect.

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