China’s climate and energy policy paradox revisited – domestic and international implications of a carbon lock-in ‘with Chinese characteristics’

Energy Sources, Part B: Economics, Planning, and Policy


Juxtaposing China’s current situation and policies toward coal and renew- ables at home and abroad, we argue that China remains in a paradoxical state of carbon lock-in. We analyze the techno-economic, institutional and political factors that contribute to China’s coal-related policies following a novel approach that blends different theories and frameworks to establish an interdisciplinary dialogue between various strands of research that were hitherto unconnected. This is accomplished by applying a political economy framework through the lens of techno-institutional carbon lock-in theory in three case studies encompassing China itself, as well as China’s climate and energy policy abroad in Pakistan and Mozambique. The article draws four major conclusions about China’s energy paradox: 1) An imperative for economic growth lies at the heart of the Chinese governance system’s incentive structure, which has resulted in a coal-based energy and industrial policy. 2) China’s government should use the experimental, decentralized nature of its regionally-decentralized regime and energy sector to their advantage by promoting disruption rather than incumbency. 3) To address the structural and institutional deficiencies that maintain or even strengthen carbon lock- in, energy governance should be shaped around the primary challenge of strengthening renewable energy advocates throughout all levels of govern- ment. 4) The discussion of coal financing abroad must now go beyond the discontinuation of new projects; the building of alternative cleaner


  • Technische Universität Berlin

  • Universität Passau

  • Europa-Universität Flensburg

  • Universidad del Magdalena


Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung