What 2021 taught us through China Cleantech

December 28, 2021

This solar year 2021 has been one of contrasts.

Glimmers of hope and despair mark the vicissitudes of COVID. 2021 boasts the Earth’s hottest month and the South Pole’s coldest winter on record. The ivory-billed woodpecker is officially extinct, while efforts to bring back the woolly mammoth have gained traction.

Global greenhouse gas emissions are still rising and the financial system that backs the real economy is expanding fossil fuel investments. Despite this, there have been small wins that bear mention, and many of these wins can be found in China-connected innovations. Chinese firms now produce over 72% of the world’s solar modules, 69% of lithium-ion batteries, and 45% of wind turbines. There is clearly cleantech know-how in domestic Chinese firms, a know-how that can help other parts of the world, including emerging and frontier markets.

During the UN international climate conference in Glasgow in November, the United States and Chinese representatives agreed to “work individually, jointly, and with other countries during this decisive decade, in accordance with different national circumstances, to strengthen and accelerate climate action and cooperation aimed at closing the gap, including accelerating the green and low-carbon transition and climate technology innovation.” It’s exactly this innovation that we have explored in the China Cleantech podcast.

In the first season of China Cleantech, we spoke with Chinese entrepreneurs innovating across climate solution sectors. Shuman Liu of Starfield explained what the alternative protein scene is like for the Chinese palate, while Yuki Yu of Energy Iceberg provided an overview of the Chinese electricity and renewable energy generation landscape. Li Xia provided inspiration in a ‘rags to riches’ story where her Shenzhen Power Solutions company creates tailored household-level clean energy products for low-income markets. Luhui Yan of Carbonstop explained the value of carbon accounting for global brands, while Kaikai Yang gave us a sense of how a Brooklyn-based blockchain innovation inspired her to start Dipole Tech.

In season two, we expanded our coverage to include intrapreneurs of various horizons in the green economy. Barbara Finamore, author of Will China Save the Planet, discussed pioneering environmental advocacy work in Beijing. David Li who leads Shenzhen Open Innovation challenged our prenotions about low-speed electric vehicles, while Chubing Li of Golden Feather elucidated the benefits of lithium metal batteries. John Creyts and Ting Li of the Rocky Mountain Institute and Peggy Liu of JUCCCE provided context behind their journeys in solving clean energy and climate challenges in China. Shi Zhenrong, also known as the Sun King, introduced listeners to glass-free solar; Ma Jun, renowned green finance leader and founder of the Institute of Finance and Sustainability, explained the importance of finance in reaching net zero goals in China.

As China Cleantech launches season 3, we explore entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in climate finance. We highlight the story of Jason Tu, founder of MioTech, Annie Liang-Zhou, co-founder of Liang Capital Partners, Earl Carr of Pivotal Advisors and author of From Trump to Biden and Beyond: Reimagining US-China Relations, and more. We have learned much from these interviewees – and go beyond the headlines of their biographies to uncover their motivations, apprehensions, and joys of working on climate finance and climate fintech.

Going into 2022, this year has taught us to take in the highs and lows, and we remain motivated by the power of finance and financial technology to be a force for climate action. Stay tuned.


China Cleantech 生态创新 is a podcast that features China-connected cleantech innovations and innovators. Available on most podcast outlets inside and outside of China, China Cleantech covers untold stories, with critical commentary by co-hosts Andrew Chang and Marilyn Waite, of green economy endeavors that impact the world’s decarbonization efforts. Find out more at http://chinacleantech.co/ and subscribe to the newsletter for updates at https://bit.ly/322Ty4S.

Author: Marilyn Waite, Andrew Chang