Renewable energy and East Asia's new developmentalism: Towards a low carbon future?

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East Asia's renewable energy (RE) sector has grown faster than any other region's since the mid-2000s. It is argued that renewables formed an integral part of the region's new industrial policies and new developmentalism, which are founded on new configured forms of state capacity shaped in response to various challenges, primarily climate change, energy security, globalisation and global neo-liberalism. By studying the recent progress of East Asia's RE sector, we gain useful insights into these key developments in East Asia's political economy and the region's prospects for transition towards low carbon development. This analysis considers how and why different approaches to RE policy emerged in East Asia, to what extent the promotion and expansion of East Asia's RE sector is part of a new industrial policy paradigm and new developmentalism, and what the study of East Asian policies on promoting renewable energy can tell us about the region's broader approach to low carbon development. Although the promotion of renewable energy has been a fundamental part of East Asia's recent macro-development plans and new developmentalism generally, these same plans suggest that East Asian states will simultaneously continue to significantly promote high carbon and ecologically damaging industrial activities, thus undermining the low carbon credentials of East Asia's new developmentalism. The path to meaningful low carbon development will be very long and will take many decades to achieve. However, it is contended that by maintaining and improving their various forms of state capacity over time, the East Asian states will be well positioned to sustain the significant growth of their renewable energy sectors and thereby further strengthen the low carbon development orientation of their new industrial policies, macro-development plans and strategic economic thinking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-587
Number of pages27
JournalPacific Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2012


  • developmental state
  • East Asia
  • energy policy
  • low carbon development
  • renewable energy
  • state capacity


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