Cellphone charger totalitarianism

What do Chinese government policy toward cellphones and corn-based ethanol have in common?

By Andrew Leonard
Published June 13, 2007 7:47PM (UTC)
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Two more Chinese data points:

  • On May 31, China's Ministry of Information Industry ordered that, starting June 14, all cellphones intended to be sold in China must be designed according to a "universal cellphone charger standard" that requires a uniform USB plug interface. According to MII, 100 million chargers are thrown away every year in China. Under the new law, any charger will work with any phone, which should eliminate the waste. (Thanks to the China Law Blog for the link.)
  • On June 12, China's government recommended a moratorium on new grain-based ethanol plants. The price of pork has jumped 43 percent in the last year, in part due to surging corn prices. Enough is enough, decided the commissars, and from now on, new ethanol plants must use non-food items as their feedstock, such as cassava or sugar-cane. (Thanks to Resource Investor for the link.

The common denominator -- unilateral decisions by an authoritarian government. The contrast with how energy policy is currently formulated in the United States, as basically a vast bidding war between special interests moving their bought-and-sold politicians like so many pawns, could not be more stark.


Which is not to say that How the World Works endorses totalitarian rule -- far from it! -- but it does pose an interesting question. Which country will ultimately be more successful at adapting to an energy-constrained future, the one that allows car companies to thwart efforts to raise fuel economy standards for decades at a time and refuses, at the behest of oil companies, to do anything about global warming, or the one that can decide, in one fell swoop, that all cellphone chargers be as one?

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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