China, the battery superpower

Access Archive

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If you’re in New York tomorrow:

Free beer and pizza…and Howard French

Free beer and pizza will be available for the audience of our live taping of the Sinica Podcast with Howard W. French of Columbia University on April 3. French is a career foreign correspondent and the author of five books, including three works of nonfiction, a work of documentary photography, and a forthcoming memoir of his life in journalism. SupChina Access members get in free. Details here.

—Jeremy Goldkorn and team

1. Just how much China dominates battery production

Damien Ma and Neil Thomas of the MacroPolo think tank at the Paulson Institute have a new piece in Foreign Policy: China is building the batteries of the future (porous paywall).

  • They write that Tesla is “America’s only hope to build supply chains for a technology that will reshape the future economy: the lithium-ion (li-ion) battery.”

  • That’s because its “Gigafactory” in Nevada, which produces 20 gigawatt-hours worth of battery capacity every year, is the single largest of its kind in the world. It accounts for nearly 10 percent of global li-ion battery production by itself — but no other American company is heavily invested in this. The U.S. has “sizable domestic lithium deposits” but has not utilized them, they note.

  • China, meanwhile, commands 61 percent of global li-ion battery production capacity, according to numbers compiled by MacroPolo.

  • The electric vehicle (EV) industry is booming around the world, but especially in China: “While the millionth electric vehicle hit U.S. roads last October, Chinese citizens bought 1.2 million in 2018 alone, on the back of generous subsidies and consumer exemptions from local lotteries and registration fees.”

  • Those subsidies are now being rolled back, and Beijing is expected to completely phase out EV subsidies after 2020 — see Bloomberg report (porous paywall).

  • But EV battery prices are also rapidly falling. One analysis cited by Ma and Thomas projects “the price of an average battery pack to be around $94/kWh by 2024 and $62/kWh by 2030.” $100/kWh is the breakeven price to be competitive with gas-powered cars without subsidies.  

More on EVs and battery production in China:

—Lucas Niewenhuis

2. A massive market for mice

Bruce Einhorn of Bloomberg reports (porous paywall):

Sacks of pungent animal feed cram the corridors of a Cyagen Biosciences Inc. center for laboratory mice in southern China, maximizing space for rodents that sell for as much as $17,000 a pair.

President Xí Jìnpíng’s 习近平 drive to turn the country into a biomedical powerhouse by 2025 has pushed the country deeper into drug discovery and to the forefront of genetics. That’s helping fuel a global market for gene-altered mice predicted to expand 7.5 percent a year to top $1.59 billion by 2022.

If you’re interested in the wild frontiers of life sciences and capitalism in China, read the whole thing.

—Jeremy Goldkorn


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—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief


A landmark order from China for 300 Airbus jets signed during a state visit last week was bolstered by repeat announcements of dozens of existing deals and advance approval for deals that have yet to be struck, two people familiar with the matter said.

Echoing an umbrella order for 300 Boeing jets awarded during a visit to Beijing by U.S. President Donald Trump in 2017, the headline figure for the new “framework order” for European jets was partly driven by political considerations, the people said.


Environmental authorities have assured residents of a village in northern China that pollution is not to blame for cloudy, discoloured water which has been emerging from an irrigation well for the local wheat crop since last year.

But concerns remain among the 2,600 residents of Minzhen village, Hebei province, that the “milky” water may be linked to a neighbouring industrial complex in Xingtang county.


A trade deal between the United States and China is now more likely to be achieved than not, a top U.S. Chamber of Commerce official said on Tuesday, adding that negotiators needed to show progress this week on an enforcement mechanism and a plan to lift U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

If the two sides did not get closer to a deal this week, the timing of an agreement could slip by a few weeks, said Myron Brilliant, the Chamber’s head of international affairs.



Happy anniversary to the Sinica Podcast, age 9

Nine years ago yesterday, Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn aired their first episode of the Sinica Podcast. Over the years, they have interviewed hundreds of guests on issues related to China. Check out this video for a look back at the history of the Sinica Podcast. Much more to come in the years ahead!

Magic cotton candy turns into flowers and a duck

Cotton candy is a worldwide favorite, including in China. Although the country has its national sweets, like the White Rabbit candy (大白兔奶糖 dàbái tù nǎi táng), kids still stop in their tracks when they see a cotton candy stand on the street. The soft sugary taste that melts on the tip of your tongue is wonderful, but so is watching cotton candy form — pure joy!


TechBuzz China: Ep. 41: IPO Is for Influencers: The Company Behind China’s Kylie Jenner Is Going Public

In Episode 41 of TechBuzz China, co-hosts Ying-Ying Lu and Rui Ma talk about Ruhnn (RUHN), a relatively small yet significant company that filed for IPO status a few weeks ago in the U.S. on the Nasdaq. Ruhnn has become the clear leader in China’s fast-growing influencer marketing sector, an area in which — our co-hosts agree — China should be considered world-leading. Lauren Hallahan, a Chinese social media marketing expert focusing on influencer marketing, and a former live-streamer in China with over 400,000 fans, joins us with insightful commentary on Ruhnn and other influencer incubators.