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中国为何支持新能源汽车

China’s global woes spark hope for electric car sector

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核心提示:中国汽车业高管通常不会在例行的行业简报中暗示南中国海爆发战争的可能性。然而,比亚迪(BYD)董事长王传福上月在推出该公司最新款电动汽车时就这么做了,这款汽车是该公司与德国戴姆勒(Daimler)联手组建的合资公司开发的。
中国为何支持新能源汽车

China’s global woes spark hope for electric car sector

中国汽车业高管通常不会在例行的行业简报中暗示南中国海爆发战争的可能性。然而,比亚迪(BYD)董事长王传福上月在推出该公司最新款电动汽车时就这么做了,这款汽车是该公司与德国戴姆勒(Daimler)联手组建的合资公司开发的。
在被问到他为何对全球最大汽车市场的电动汽车前景感到乐观时,王传福提出,政府政策支持将是一个关键的成功因素,这在一定程度上受到中国对于“两个60%”担忧的推动。
中国现在每年的石油需求有60%左右依靠进口,其中60%通过南中国海运输,在南中国海,未经沙场的解放军海军正试图投射实力,逼退菲律宾、越南和美国等对手。
“南中国海是一个非常复杂的问题,”王传福表示,他指的是该地区可能引发冲突并破坏海上交通的领土争端。“如果船舶无法运送石油,那么中国将面临严重的石油短缺。”
今年夏季,中国政府推出新的、补贴力度加大的激励举措,以促进“新能源汽车”的开发,其中还有其他原因,最突出的是污染。但王传福辩称,地缘政治担忧是出台面向替代能源汽车的政策支持的最大因素。
他表示:“石油安全是推动新能源汽车发展的最重要因素,”他补充称,李克强总理今年3月宣布“向污染宣战”是“第二个推动因素”。
王传福擅长推销,显然,他强调可能推升比亚迪股价的因素对自己是有好处的,特别是在今年该公司汽油动力汽车销量大幅下滑的情况下。但他的分析是值得关注的。政界人脉远远强于跨国车企外籍高管的中国汽车业高管,很少在公开场合分享他们对于中国政府动机以及较长期目标的洞见。
比亚迪董事长的政治敏感也要好于多数人。
除了在一个政府主导的行业成为一个成功的民营企业家(比亚迪最初是一家手机电池制造商,后来进军汽车业)以外,王传福还有一些不寻常的合作伙伴。
他的最大投资者之一是李禄,李禄曾在1989年天安门广场学生抗议活动中担任学生领袖。在抗议遭到流血镇压后,李禄逃往美国,最终成为一名亿万富翁基金经理。这位前民主活动人士早早发现了比亚迪的潜力,并把王传福介绍给他的偶像沃伦•巴菲特(Warren Buffett),巴菲特控股的中美能源(MidAmerican Energy Holdings)现在是比亚迪最大单一股东。
中国对新能源汽车的需求一直不旺,主要是因为潜在车主对充电站的覆盖率感到担忧。中国的新能源汽车保有量只有7万辆左右,其中多数为公交车或出租车。这表明,中国政府制定的到明年销售50万辆以及到2020年销售500万辆新能源汽车的目标将很难实现。
然而,王传福表示,政府决心实现目标,不仅因为如果通往中东油田的海上运输线被切断,中国希望拥有一支可以继续运转的车队。他表示,中国政府担心,尽管本土汽车行业可能为全球规模最大,但并非全球实力最强。外国品牌主宰着中国市场。
王传福表示,新能源汽车将给中国国内汽车厂商提供另一条夺取行业主导地位的途径。这并非他一人的观点。
最近,中国欧盟商会(EU Chamber of Commerce in China)表示担心,针对新能源汽车的政府补贴和激励举措只适用于那些“在中国生产的中国品牌”汽车。这意味着,核心技术必须向中国当局披露。
中国欧盟商会汽车工作组在一份意见书中表示:“一方面,(新能源汽车)旨在缓解中国对进口石油的依赖,另一方面,(政府政策)是自主电动车产业发展的一份蓝图,有朝一日可能会取代跨国(汽车制造商)的主导地位。”
意见书提出,中国政府的战略愿景忽视了一个事实:“汽车行业长期全球化……这有利于所有经济参与者以及消费者。”
如果中国对21世纪能源安全的追求被陈旧的保护主义本能的削弱,那将是具有讽刺意味的。 
China’s global woes spark hope for electric car sector
 
Chinese auto executives do not usually allude to the possibility of a shooting war in the South China Sea in the course of otherwise routine industry briefings. Yet Wang Chuanfu, chairman of BYD, did just that last month during the launch of the company’s latest electric car, developed by its joint venture with Daimler of Germany.
Asked why he was optimistic about electric vehicles in the world’s largest automotive market, Mr Wang argued that government policy support would be a critical factor in success, driven in large part by Beijing’s concerns about “the two 60 per cents”.
China now imports about 60 per cent of its annual oil requirement and 60 per cent of those imports are shipped through the South China Sea, a region wher the untested People’s Liberation Army Navy is trying to project power and push back its Philippine, Vietnamese and US rivals.
“The South China Sea is a very complicated problem,” Mr Wang said, referring to the region’s territorial disputes that could potentially spark a conflict and disrupt maritime traffic. “If ships could not deliver their oil China would face severe shortages.”
There are other reasons the Chinese government this summer issued new and improved incentives to spur development of so-called NEVs, or new energy vehicles, most notably pollution. But Mr Wang argued that geopolitical concerns loomed largest in its formulation of policy support for alternative energy vehicles.
“Oil security is the biggest driver for NEV development,” he said, adding that Premier Li Keqiang’s “war on pollution”, declared in March this year, was “the second driver”.
Mr Wang is a good salesman and clearly has an interest in highlighting forces that may drive up BYD’s share price, especially given a collapse in sales of its gasoline-fuelled cars this year. But his analysis is worth paying attention to. Chinese auto executives, who are far better connected than their expatriate counterparts at multinational car companies, rarely share their insights on Beijing’s motivations and longer-term objectives in public settings.
BYD’s chairman also has better tuned political antennas than most.
In addition to succeeding as a private entrepreneur in a state-dominated industry – BYD began as a manufacturer of mobile phone batteries before diversifying into cars – Mr Wang also has rather unusual partners.
One of his largest investors is Li Lu, a student leader during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. After those ended in bloodshed, Mr Li fled to the US and ended up a billionaire fund manager. The former democracy activist spotted BYD’s potential early and introduced Mr Wang to his idol, Warren Buffett, whose MidAmerican Energy Holdings is now the biggest single shareholder in the company.
Chinese demand for NEVs has been tepid, largely because of drivers’ concerns about the availability of an adequate charging infrastructure. There are only about 70,000 NEVs in use in China, most of them public buses or taxis. That suggests the government’s target of 500,000 NEV sales next year and 5m by 2020 will be difficult to reach.
But Mr Wang said the government was determined to succeed – and not just because it wants a vehicle fleet that can keep running even if maritime lifelines to Middle East oilfields were to be cut off. Beijing, he said, is concerned that while its auto industry may be the world’s largest, it is not the strongest. Foreign brands dominate the market.
According to BYD’s chairman, NEVs offer China’s domestic auto companies an alternative route to industry dominance. He is not alone in this view.
Yesterday, the EU Chamber of Commerce in China expressed concern that government subsidies and incentives for NEVs only apply to those “produced in China under a Chinese brand”. That means underlying technologies have to be disclosed to local authorities.
“While at one level [NEVs] are meant to alleviate China’s dependency on imported oil, on another, [government policy] is a blueprint for the development of an indigenous electric vehicle industry that might one day trump the dominant position of multinational [car companies],” the chamber’s automotive working group said in a position paper.
It argued that Beijing’s strategic vision ignores the fact that “the automotive industry has long been highly globalised . . . in ways that benefit all economic players as well as consumers”.
It would ironic if China’s 21st century quest for energy security was undermined by old-fashioned protectionist instincts.
Tom Mitchell is the Financial Times’ Beijing correspondent
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