Chapter 6

Declaration of Energy Independence

A black shroud enveloped the car. We had driven only a couple of kilometers down the country road when smoke blotted out the mid-winter sun. Suddenly we were driving blind. By the time my eyes had adjusted to the darkness, we had stopped. On the driver’s side of the car stood the great cement tower of a coal burning power plant, some 30-stories high, vomiting thick charcoal smoke. The dirty vapor swirled through the air, carefree, and fluttered across the hood of the government sedan that we were driving. The mist wafted across the cracked, uneven road and caressed a riot of crooked brick walls and corrugated plastic roofs that lay scattered along shattered lanes. People lived and worked in the ramshackle warren. They went about their lives without interruption. We stepped out of the car. A man in a worn sports coat riding past on a rusted bicycle squinted at us.

The Yangzhou government administrator said encouragingly, “We can build a single-floor facility for your client here.” Yangzhou is about an hour’s drive north of Nanjing, on the Yangtze River. My host pointed at the exact spot where residents were in thrall to their own survival in the brick maze. They must have witnessed this roadside scene countless times before, with other government officials ushering other businessmen from around the world. They knew though, they were safe from immediate encroachment. Only they would be foolish enough or poor enough to continue life in ...

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