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Charging ahead: China's strategic drive to electric vehicle supremacy

Maarij Farooq

Workers in Wuhu, Anhui Province manufacturing cars, December 7, 2020. /CFP
Workers in Wuhu, Anhui Province manufacturing cars, December 7, 2020. /CFP

Workers in Wuhu, Anhui Province manufacturing cars, December 7, 2020. /CFP

Editor's note: Maarij Farooq is editor-in-chief at Pakistan Economic Net and Daily Ittehad Media Group. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

China's strategic approach to the EV sector reflects a blend of foresight, innovation, and policy precision. The country recognized at an early stage how imperative the transition to sustainable energy sources was, particularly in the area of transportation. This recognition was not merely a response to environmental challenges but also a strategic maneuver to reduce reliance on imported oil, thereby enhancing national energy security. The Chinese government, with its characteristic style of long-term planning, implemented a series of policies that catalyzed the growth of the EV industry. These included substantial financial incentives for manufacturers and buyers, investment in research and development, and the establishment of a nationwide infrastructure for electric vehicles, including a vast network of charging stations.

The results of these policies are evident in the robust statistics that characterize China's current position in the global EV market. China not only leads in production and sales of electric vehicles but also in the critical area of battery technology. The country has made significant advancements in lithium-ion battery technology, which is central to the EV revolution. This focus on battery technology is strategic, as it not only serves the domestic market but also positions China as a key supplier in the global EV supply chain.

China's EV industry has witnessed exponential growth, underpinned by impressive statistics and figures. In the early 2010s, the Chinese EV market was relatively nascent, with modest sales figures. However, by 2020, China had risen to become the world's largest EV market. For instance, in 2020 alone, despite the global pandemic, China sold over 1.3 million electric vehicles, accounting for about 41% of the global EV market. This was a significant increase from just a few years prior; in 2015, China's EV sales were approximately 330,000 units, indicating a fourfold increase in just half a decade.

The growth trajectory continues to be steep. In 2021, the sales of New Energy Vehicles (NEVs), which include plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, surged to 3.5 million units, marking an increase of around 157% from the previous year. This growth trajectory is in line with the Chinese government's ambitious plan to have NEVs account for 20% of total vehicle sales by 2025.

However, the journey has not been devoid of challenges. The rapid expansion of the EV market has brought to the forefront issues such as the need for sustainable sourcing of raw materials for batteries and the challenge of integrating a high number of electric vehicles into the existing power grid. China is addressing these challenges through continued innovation and strategic partnerships, both domestically and internationally.

In the international context, China's role is increasingly influential. The country is not just exporting its electric vehicles but also its EV technology and expertise. The U.S. EV market, though growing, has been more gradual in its expansion. This difference can be attributed to several factors, including less aggressive government policies in the U.S., and a historically strong attachment to gasoline-powered vehicles. While American EV manufacturers like Tesla have made significant strides, they face a different set of regulatory and market challenges compared to their Chinese counterparts.

The future of China's EV industry is poised to remain on an upward trajectory. The continuous support from the government, coupled with relentless innovation in technology and expanding global influence, suggests that China will not only maintain but likely strengthen its position in the EV sector. This leadership carries broader implications for the global automotive industry and for the future of sustainable transportation.

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