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            [post_content] => Shanghai/Beijing. Global security companies and their smaller Chinese rivals are jostling for business along Beijing's modern-day "Silk Road," the grandiose plan for land and sea routes connecting the world's second largest economy with the rest of Asia and beyond.

Representing investments of hundreds of billions of dollars, the pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen boosting economic growth at home, and as positive for everything from steel prices to cement makers.

Security firms also expect to tap the rush, offering to protect thousands of Chinese workers  and the pipelines, roads, railways and power plants they build  as they fan out across the world under the "One Belt, One Road" (OBOR) initiative.

It won't be easy, however, with executives warning that state-owned enterprises running or planning projects from Africa to Vietnam sometimes prefer to deal with fellow Chinese, treat safety as an afterthought and try to keep costs to a minimum.

"OBOR is a lifetime [of work] for us," said John Jiang, managing director of Chinese Overseas Security Group (COSG).

The small consortium of security providers was set up early last year and operates in six countries: Pakistan, Turkey, Mozambique, Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand.

"In eight years' time, we want to run a business that can cover 50-60 countries, which fits with the One Belt One Road coverage," Jiang told Reuters.

Chinese personnel are essentially barred under Chinese law, and that of many host nations they work in, from carrying or using weapons.

Instead, COSG and its rivals usually work with and train local staff and focus on logistics and planning.

In Pakistan, for example, where attacks by militants and separatist insurgents are considered a serious threat, COSG has a joint venture with a local security firm with links to Pakistan's navy.

The Pakistani army also plans to provide 14-15,000 armed personnel dedicated to guarding Chinese projects, according to local media reports.

The $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the largest single project under the OBOR banner, envisages roads, railways, pipelines and power lines that link China's western reaches with the Arabian Sea via Pakistan.

Chinese Versus International

Major international security operators hope their scale and experience can convince China's price-conscious state-owned giants to pay for foreign expertise.

Firms like Control Risks and G4S offer staff with military backgrounds and decades of experience in risky regions around the world.

G4S said it had seen an acceleration of interest in its services since OBOR began gaining traction.

Michael Humphreys, a Shanghai-based partner at Control Risks, said around a third of the security consultancy's work in China was related to OBOR.

Hong Kong-based logistics firm Frontier Services Group, co-founded by Erik Prince who created the US military security services business Blackwater, announced in December it was shifting strategy to capitalize on OBOR.

It plans to set up an office in the southwestern province of Yunnan, which adjoins Southeast Asia, and another base in Xinjiang in China's west, the starting point for the CPEC project crossing Pakistan.

Smaller Chinese firms like COSG, Shanghai-based Weldon Security and Dewei Security, meanwhile, see their advantage over multinationals in state-owned enterprises' preference for hiring Chinese to handle sensitive projects.

Only a handful of the estimated 5,800 Chinese security companies operate overseas, with the vast majority focusing on the domestic market.

"For Chinese firms, especially with security work, they [state companies] want to speak with another Chinese person. We can also one hundred percent reflect their thinking when we work," said Dewei general manager Hao Gang.

No Easy Sell

Security risks facing Chinese workers abroad are varied and often unpredictable.

Yu Xuezhao, a former soldier working in Kenya for Dewei, is helping to train hundreds of local guards to protect Chinese contractors operating there, including oil giant Sinopec and China Road and Bridge.

Africa, where China invested long before OBOR was formally created, is considered a part of the initiative.

"The most common incidents we encounter are thefts and strikes," 27-year-old Yu said, speaking from a training compound in the Kenyan capital Nairobi he has managed since 2015. "We train security guards to inspect cars and do ground patrols."

Events can quickly escalate.

In 2015, for example, an attack on a hotel in Mali killed three workers at a Chinese state firm, leading to calls by Beijing for beefed-up security.

Officials revealed then that 350 security incidents had occurred between 2010-2015 involving Chinese firms abroad.

Such concerns do not easily translate into lucrative contracts, however.

In some cases, security companies are called in to deal with an emergency rather than to coordinate a long-term strategy.

"For a lot of companies, they come to us when they've [already] got a problem," said Humphreys of Control Risks.

"They've started the project and they can't move it forward because they have a labor dispute or someone is throwing petrol bombs at their trucks."

Hao and other Chinese security executives added that most state-owned enterprises were building their overseas security capabilities from a low base.

"A lot of the larger state-owned enterprises have only just started to go out in the last few years. As such, overseas security work remains a blank space for those firms who had not gone out before," he said.

Some Chinese experts said companies operating abroad were beginning to think more about the importance of safety.

"This is something Chinese companies need to study more," said Lu Guiqing, general manager of private builder Zhongnan Group and former chief economist at China State Construction Engineering Corporation.

"When you 'go out' safety is the most important. What's the point if you end up losing people?"

Reuters
            [post_title] => Local, Global Security Firms in Race Along China's 'Silk Road'
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            [post_content] => Yiwu, China. As Europe and the United States crack down on migrants from the Middle East and Africa, China is welcoming those with money to the boomtown of Yiwu, known as "Christmas Town," luring business-savvy Syrians, Yemeni, Libyans and Iraqis.

Although China does not have laws recognizing refugees, it grants visas to people from war-torn countries who can afford to live in the country, paying language course fees or business taxes from their own pocket.

The rapid rise of Yiwu as a business center since the early 2000's has proved an attraction for migrants wanting to rebuild their lives.

The eastern city of 1.2 million people, 285 kilometers south of Shanghai, is nicknamed "Christmas Town" for producing 60 percent of the world's Christmas decorations  as well as a host of other goods from socks to plastic toys and electronics.

A Yiwu government report showed that in 2016 the city issued 9,675 people temporary residence permits, a 17 percent rise on the previous year, of which over 4,000 were to those from war-torn countries including Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan.

Iraqis were the biggest group to apply for residence permits in China in 2016 with other applications from Yemen, India, Syria, Afghan, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, Mali and South Korea.

"Yiwu is a very embracing city," Ammar Albaadani, 38, from Yemen, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview at his apartment in Yiwu, with floors covered by Arabian carpets.

"We Arabs were the first who came to Yiwu to do business and participated in the city's economic development. Now many of us – Yemenis, Syrians and Iraqis  have wars in our countries. We need to give all of them some warmth."

Known as the "world's largest small commodity wholesale market," Yiwu has transformed the fortunes of its Chinese workers but has also opened up a wealth of opportunities in cheap manufacturing for foreign migrants.

An influx of Arab entrepreneurs  most of them on short-term business visas  has transformed the city into a bustling multi-cultural hub with numerous Middle Eastern restaurants and its own mosque.

But with China's immigration rules, among the strictest in the world for foreigners seeking permanent residency, many of the city's migrants are worried about how long they will be able to stay in what has become their second home.

'Safe in China'

Manar Abdulhussein, 38, left behind bombings and attacks in the Iraqi capital Baghdad five years ago and moved her family business to Yiwu with her husband and three sons, Ahmed, 15, Hussein, 11, and Yousif, 4, who was born in China.

She runs a clothing factory with her husband, Alobaidi Mohammed, exporting back to Iraq, which has expanded from one floor to three floors in the past five years.

"We had our factory in Iraq. Then there was a war. Many people urged us come to China to continue our work. Our materials were originally from China," said Manar, who has adopted a Chinese name, Lan Lan, to fit in.

With so many Iraqi migrants in Yiwu, there is now an Iraqi school in the city. But it is hard to plan for the future amid uncertainty over whether they will be able to stay, said Manar.

"It's very safe in China so I hope my children can settle down, finish their studies and find jobs. But even if we stay here for a long time, we won't get Chinese passports," said Manar, who also teaches parents Chinese at the Iraqi school.

Old Settlers

Ammar, from Yemen, first came to China 19 years ago as a student on a state scholarship. When fighting in his country escalated three years ago, he decided to settle in Yiwu.

"The time I last left my country was a very bad memory. It was 2014, Houthi rebels had reached Sana'a and were about to occupy it," Ammar told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in fluent Chinese.

"I expected the situation would get worse, so I left with sadness."

Last year, Ammar set up the "Silk Road Culture Club" to help foreign migrants integrate. The club organizes activities for expats and locals and is recognized by the local government.

As he spoke, his club was about to host a New Year gathering for members to make Chinese dumplings.

"It's a New Year festival, so we make dumplings," he said. "Many of us don't have families here and few relatives. So, we're trying to make them feel they belong to a big family."

Despite Ammar's efforts to assimilate, his residency status remains uncertain. "I have lived more years in China than in Yemen, but I'm using a Yemen passport. It's really hard to get permanent residency."

Since 2015, China's strict immigration laws have been relaxed  starting in the commercial center Shanghai  to attract more highly-skilled workers.

To acquire permanent residency, candidates need to have lived in China for four consecutive years and have an annual salary of 600,000 yuan ($87,000) with annual income tax above 120,000 yuan, according to a report by the state-owned Shanghai Morning Post.

Immigration experts said there are still some internal guidelines to be checked case by case.

The country of 1.3 billion approved just 1,576 Chinese "green cards" allowing permanent residency in 2016, up 163 percent from the previous year, according to a report by the state-owned English newspaper China Daily.

"If we want to stay in China, we need policies that can make it easier for us, especially visas and residency, and children's education, social insurance and medical care," said Ammar.

"I have been thinking about Europe, but since we have lived in China for so long, and we are used to the life here now, so it is hard for us to move to another continent."

New Way of Life

Mike, a 24-year-old actor from Syria, who goes by his professional name, is a newcomer to Yiwu. In 2012, a year into Syria's civil war, Mike fled his home city of Damascus.

He first went to study in Malaysia, and then came to Yiwu where he studied Chinese for two years in the city's business school, where foreigners made up 12.5 percent of students.

"When I studied, I also worked as an actor. Acting is my ambition," said Mike, who has played roles as a Westerner in Chinese soap operas and films.

But with his acting income not enough to live on, Mike is now setting up his own import-export company and plans to apply for a business visa, aiming to get permanent residency one day.

"I hope I can buy a flat in China and bring my parents to live with me," Mike said.

Ammar said he had learnt a lot about different ways of working in China but his final goal was to go home.

"We hope in the future [...] there will be peace in the Arab world. Then the Silk Road will have new directions," Ammar said.

Reuters
            [post_title] => China's 'Christmas Town' Opens Doors to Middle East Migrants but Future Uncertain
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            [post_content] => London. China will lead growth in global wind power capacity of almost 65 percent over the next five years, with other Asian countries also developing more renewable energy, the Global Wind Energy Council said on Tuesday (25/04).

Cumulative wind energy capacity was 487 gigawatts at the end of 2016, a 12.6 percent rise from the year before and should grow by almost 65 percent to 800 gigawatts by the end of 2021, the council said in its annual report on the industry.

While China will continue to lead the global market, other countries such as India, which set a record for new wind installations last year in an effort to meet ambitious government targets, will also play a part.

Globally, wind power capacity installed in 2016 reached 54  gigawatts, which should rise to 60 gigawatts this year, the council said.

Last year, the International Energy Agency said renewables surpassed coal in 2016 to become the largest power source in the world.

"Wind power is now successfully competing with heavily subsidized incumbents across the globe, building new industries, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and leading the way towards a clean energy future," Global Wind Energy Council secretary general Steve Sawyer said in a statement.

Last year saw significant price reductions for offshore wind in Europe, the report said.

"Europe will continue to lead the offshore market, but the low prices have attracted the attention of policymakers worldwide, particularly in North America and Asia," it said.

Reuters
            [post_title] => Rising Wind Power Growth to Be Led by China Over Next Five Years
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            [post_content] => Dhaka. China offered on Tuesday (25/04) to help tackle a diplomatic row between Bangladesh and Myanmar over the flight of minority Rohingyas, two Bangladesh foreign ministry officials said.

Around 69,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar since October, straining relations between the two neighbors who each see the stateless Muslim minority as the other nation's problem.

Chinese special envoy Sun Guoxiang, beginning a four-day trip to Bangladesh, urged Dhaka to resolve the row with Myanmar bilaterally, but also said Beijing stood ready to help in the matter, a foreign ministry official in Dhaka told Reuters.

Sun made the proposal during a meeting with Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque, the official said. He declined to be named, saying he was not authorized to speak to the media.

"The envoy told us at the meeting that they were ready to help if necessary," the official said. Another foreign ministry official confirmed the information but also asked not to be named, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

China has strong ties with both Myanmar and Bangladesh, helping in infrastructure development in both countries. Relations with the former have warmed further since Myanmar President Htin Kyaw struck a deal in China on an oil pipeline between the neighbors after almost a decade of talks.

Beijing has established a strong presence in Bangladesh, building roads and power stations and supplying military hardware.

During the talks on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Haque told Chinese envoy Sun that Bangladesh welcomed Chinese efforts to tackle its problems with Myanmar stemming from the influx of Rohingyas into Bangladesh, the officials said.

Dhaka has proposed that Sun travel to Cox's Bazar near the border with Myanmar to see the plight of the tens of thousands of people camped there. China's ambassador to Bangladesh, Ma Mingqiang, visited a Rohingya camp there in March.

Myanmar has faced growing international criticism over the latest eruption of violence against the Rohingyas. Myanmar's government has conceded some soldiers may have committed crimes but has rejected charges of ethnic cleansing. 

Reuters
            [post_title] => China Ready to Mediate Between Myanmar, Bangladesh Over Rohingya Row
            [post_excerpt] => China offered on Tuesday (25/04) to help tackle a diplomatic row between Bangladesh and Myanmar over the flight of minority Rohingyas, two Bangladesh foreign ministry officials said.
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            [post_content] => China's net-gold imports via main conduit Hong Kong more than doubled month-on-month in March, data showed on Tuesday (25/04).

Net-gold imports by the world's top gold consumer through the port of Hong Kong rose to 111.647 tonnes in March from 47.931 tonnes in February, according to data emailed to Reuters by the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department.

China's net-gold imports rose to its best since May 2016.

Total gold imports rose to 116.68 tonnes in March from 49.026 tonnes in February.

Both total and net imports in March rose for a second straight month.

"In the past the (Chinese) banks had enough stocks to deal with the local consumption and now it looks like the old inventories have been consumed and the banks are replenishing stocks," said Joshua Rotbart, managing partner, J. Rotbart & Co in Hong Kong.

China allows only 13 banks, including three foreign lenders, to import gold, according to the Shanghai Gold Exchange.

China does not provide trade data on gold, and the Hong Kong figures serve as a proxy for flows to the mainland. The Hong Kong data, however, might not provide a full picture of Chinese purchases as gold is also imported via Shanghai and Beijing.

"Believe demand from China will continue to be strong... People are looking for a longer term safe haven - which is gold at this point of time," said Brian Lan, managing director at gold dealer GoldSilver Central in Singapore.

Gold has risen over 10 percent so far this year, driven by geopolitical worries.

Bullion is often seen as an alternative investment during times of political and financial uncertainty.

Gold prices eased on Tuesday as investor sentiment remained skewed towards riskier assets in the wake of the French election results last weekend, though concerns over tensions on the Korean peninsula limited the safe-haven metal's losses. 

Reuters
            [post_title] => China's Net-Gold Imports via Hong Kong More Than Doubles in March
            [post_excerpt] => China's net-gold imports via main conduit Hong Kong more than doubled month-on-month in March, data showed on Tuesday (25/04).
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            [post_content] => Shanghai. Air China Ltd has received the green light from Beijing to push ahead with mixed-ownership reform of its air freight logistics business, the firm said late on Friday (21/04), signalling a potential shake-up of China's cargo carrier market.

In a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange the carrier said its state-owned parent, China National Aviation Holding Company (CNAHC), had received the approval from China's top state planner, the National Development and Reform Commission.

China's long-awaited mixed ownership reforms will allow private capital to invest in firms run directly by the central government, and are part of an ambitious revamp of the country's sclerotic and debt-ridden state sector.

"CNAHC will start to push forward the mixed-ownership reform in air freight logistics," it said, adding the move would likely affect the listed company and some of its subsidiary firms.

Domestic media has previously reported China's top airline freight carriers could merge to form a cargo transport giant.

An official at the Civil Aviation Administration of China told the official Xinhua news agency in 2015 that Air China Cargo, China Cargo Airlines and China Southern Cargo could be combined.

Earlier this month the news agency reported China would soon release details of ambitious ownership reform plans at central government-owned firms, including telecom giant China Unicom and China Eastern Airlines.

The central government, which has made mixed ownership reform one of its priorities, currently owns and administers 102 enterprises in sectors from nuclear technology to medicine.

This week, China's cabinet endorsed guidelines by the country's state planner to reduce leverage in the corporate sector and push forward with mixed-ownership reforms at state-owned enterprises this year.

Reuters
            [post_title] => Air China Says Beijing Green-Lights Ownership Reforms of Cargo Business
            [post_excerpt] => Air China Ltd has received the green light from Beijing to push ahead with mixed-ownership reform of its air freight logistics business, the firm said late on Friday (21/04), signalling a potential shake-up of China's cargo carrier market.
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            [post_content] => Shanghai. China's first cargo spacecraft docked successfully with the Tiangong-2 space lab on Saturday (22/04), the official Xinhua news agency reported, marking a major step towards Beijing's goal of establishing a permanently manned space station by 2022.

President Xi Jinping has prioritized advancing China's space program to strengthen national security.

The Tianzhou-1 cargo resupply spacecraft made the automated docking process with the orbiting space lab after it had taken off on Thursday evening from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in the southern island province of Hainan.

The Tiangong-2 space laboratory, or "Heavenly Palace 2", was home to two astronauts for a month last October in China's longest ever manned space mission.

The cargo spacecraft mission provides an "important technological basis" to build a Chinese space station, state media have said. It can reportedly carry 6 tonnes of goods, 2 tonnes of fuel and can fly unmanned for three months.

Despite the advances in China's space program for military, commercial and scientific purposes, China still lags behind the United States and Russia.

In late 2013, China's Jade Rabbit rover landed on the Moon to great national fanfare, but ran into severe technical difficulties.

The US Defense Department has highlighted China's increasing space capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations from using space-based assets in a crisis.

China insists it has only peaceful ambitions in space, but has tested anti-satellite missiles. 

Reuters
            [post_title] => China's First Cargo Spacecraft Docks With Orbiting Space Lab
            [post_excerpt] => China's first cargo spacecraft docked successfully with the Tiangong-2 space lab on Saturday (22/04), the official Xinhua news agency reported, marking a major step towards Beijing's goal of establishing a permanently manned space station by 2022.
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                            [caption] => Long March-7 rocket and Tianzhou-1 cargo spacecraft are seen as they are transferred to a launching spot in Wenchang, Hainan province, China, April 17, 2017.  (Reuters Photo/China Daily)
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            [post_content] => Beijing. New property curbs in China's capital unveiled in March have started to cool the red-hot housing market, but the frothy market will take some time to stabilize, the Beijing municipal government said.

Beijing, a bellwether of national policy direction, is on the frontline as China takes on speculators and tries to tame home prices, with new curbs last month as prices and sales picked up again, shrugging off measures taken late last year.

The new measures included raising the minimum downpayment on a second home to 60 percent to 80 percent, from 50 percent to 70 percent, depending on home types.

Online transaction volumes fell 16.7 percent in the 10 days after the new curbs adopted on March 18, versus the previous 10 days, the Beijing government said on Wednesday (19/04).

Property sales by floor area also dropped 15.4 percent in the first quarter from a year ago, it said, or 5 percentage points quicker than in the first two months of the year.

The city government also singled out the resale market, stressing it has cooled significantly.

"With demand dropping, it's possible (Beijing) housing prices, especially in the resale market, may drop," a city government spokeswoman told a news conference, a post on the government website showed.

Prices in Beijing's resale market surged 2.2 percent in March on a monthly basis, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed.

New home prices rose 0.4 percent in Beijing in March from the previous month, after flatlining in the first two months of the year. Beijing home prices surged 19 percent from a year earlier.

But the spokeswoman conceded buyers might adopt a wait-and-see attitude as policy adjustments take time to sink in.

"The impact of the new policies will become increasingly visible in April or in the even longer term," she said.

Sales by floor area of new units dropped 22 percent in the first half of April from a year ago in the 50 major Chinese cities monitored by real estate consultancy E-house China R&D Institute. The fall was 4 percent versus the previous 15 days.

Sales dropped the most in tier-1 cities, which showed a 12 percent drop on a monthly basis, the Shanghai-based consultancy said, while tier-2 and tier-3 cities had smaller respective falls of 2 percent and 4 percent.

"The drop in sales showed the measures are effective," it said. But it also said 25 of the 50 cities had price gains in the first half of April over the corresponding March period.

The consultancy estimates sales in the 50 cities will continue to fall by about 10 percent in April, from a month ago.

The housing boom has been a key driver of China's stronger-than-expected economic performance in recent months, but analysts believe it may also pose the single biggest risk to growth this year.

Local governments are adopting ever tougher measures to rein in prices, which are expected to eventually slow real estate investment and construction. 

Reuters
            [post_title] => Beijing Govt Says Property Curbs Show Results, Despite March Price Gains
            [post_excerpt] => New property curbs in China's capital unveiled in March have started to cool the red-hot housing market, but the frothy market will take some time to stabilize, the Beijing municipal government said.
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            [post_name] => beijing-govt-says-property-curbs-show-results-despite-march-price-gains
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            [post_content] => Shanghai. The amount of electricity wasted by China's solar and wind power sectors rose significantly last year, environment group Greenpeace said in a research report published Wednesday (19/04), despite government pledges to rectify the problem.

China has promised to improve what it called the "rhythm" of grid and generation capacity construction to avoid "curtailment," which occurs when there is insufficient transmission to absorb power produced by renewable projects.

But Greenpeace said wasted wind power still reached 17 percent of the total generated by wind farms last year, up from 8 percent in 2014, and was as high as 43 percent in the northwestern province of Gansu. The amount that failed to make it to the grid was enough to power Beijing for the whole of 2015, it added.

Solar curtailment across China rose 50 percent over 2015 and 2016. More than 30 percent of solar power in Gansu and neighboring Xinjiang failed to reach the grid.

Greenpeace said earlier that total solar and wind investment between now and 2030 could hit $780 billion.

But, rising levels of waste cost the industry as much as 34.1 billion yuan ($4.95 billion) in lost earnings over 2015-16, it said Wednesday.

China's energy regulator said late on Tuesday that it aims to raise the share of non-hydro renewable electricity delivered to the grid to 9 percent of the total by 2020, up from 6.3 percent last year and 5 percent in 2015.

It said renewable capacity hit 34.6 percent of the national total in 2016, while actual generation from renewable sources  including major hydro projects  stood at 25.4 percent of the total last year.

China produced 12.3 billion kilowatt-hours of solar power in the first quarter of 2017, up 31 percent year-over-year but accounting for just 1.1 percent of total generation over the period, official data showed on Monday. Wind hit 62.1 billion kilowatt-hours, 4.3 percent of the total and dwarfed by the 77.9 percent share occupied by thermal electricity.

Grid construction has slipped behind, with China focusing on expensive ultra-high voltage routes that better suit large-scale power generation projects.

"Upgrades to the system are urgently needed, including a more flexible physical structure of the grid, efficient cross-region transmission channels and smart peak load operation," Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner, Yuan Ying said.

Many regions have used renewables as back-up electricity sources during peak periods, and it falls idle when power use drops. Provinces are now lobbying for ultra-high voltage connections allowing them to sell surplus power to other regions.

Executives at a Shanghai conference on Wednesday said curtailment was eroding cash flows and discouraging investment, and while China was looking for solutions, the answer was likely to be technological.

"If you are in remote areas and there's no grid around, you build storage – transformer stations and storage plants that can make the energy available at a later stage," Andreas Liebheit said, president of Heraeus Materials Technology Shanghai, which produces specialist materials for solar panels.

Reuters
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