Renewable energy statecraft and asymmetric interdependence: how the solar energy industry is wielding China with geopolitical power

  • Vasconcelos, Daniel de Oliveira (China Studies (Politics and International Relations) from the Yenching Academy of Peking University)
  • Published : 2021.12.31


This article investigates the geopolitics of the energy transition era, concentrating on China's solar photovoltaic (PV) industry. Authors have noted that the rise of renewables is changing the geopolitical landscape of world energy systems, but these new energy sources carry their own technical characteristics and geopolitical implications. Bearing this in mind, this research answers the questions: What are the structural factors that facilitate China's use of renewable energy to achieve political goals, and what are their implications? In order to analyze the data, I devise an analytical framework based on the energy statecraft literature and contrast rival explanations, particularly the "prosumer theory" and the premise of less geopolitical interdependence in a renewable-centered world. I show that asymmetric interdependence in the solar PV sector is already a reality. China's solar PV industry is a case that suffices all conditions (centrality in industrial capacity, market share, and companies' compliance, but to a lesser extent in critical materials and technological endowments) in the solar PV sector to devise effective strategies aimed at reaping benefits out of its asymmetric interdependence with the rest of the world.