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当太阳能电池板成了美国的就业杀手

更新时间:2017-4-12 11:54:48 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

When Solar Panels Became Job Killers
当太阳能电池板成了美国的就业杀手

WUHAN, China — Russell Abney raised two children on solar power. The 49-year-old Georgia Tech graduate worked for the last decade in Perrysburg, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo, pulling a good salary as an equipment engineer for the largest American solar-panel maker.

中国武汉——拉塞尔·阿布尼(Russell Abney)在太阳能行业工作,以此养育了两个孩子。过去十年中,这位49岁的佐治亚理工大学毕业生在俄勒冈州托莱多市郊区佩里斯堡工作,在美国最大的太阳能电池板制造公司担任设备工程师,有一份不错的薪水。

On the other side of the world, Gao Song boasted his own solar success story. A former organic fruit retailer who lives in the dusty Chinese city of Wuhan, he installed solar panels on his roof four years ago and found it so lucrative that he went into business installing them for others. By last summer, he and a team of 50 employees were installing solar-panel systems on nearly 100 roofs a month.

在世界的另一边,高松也有着靠太阳能起家的成功故事。他之前是一个有机水果零售商,住在尘土飞扬的中国城市武汉。四年前,他在自家屋顶上安装了太阳能电池板,发现这方面有利可图,于是开始进入这一行业,为其他人安装。到去年夏天,他和一个拥有50名员工的团队每月都为近100个屋顶安装太阳能电池板系统。

Then China shook the global solar business — and transformed both their lives.

然后,中国震撼了全球的太阳能业务,也改变了这两个人的生活。

“A small vibration back in China,” said Frank Haugwitz, a longtime solar industry consultant in Beijing, “can cause an avalanche in prices around the world.”

“在中国的一点小小振荡,”驻北京的太阳能行业资深顾问韩飞(Frank Haugwitz)说,“就可能导致世界各地的价格暴跌。”

Late last summer, Chinese officials began publicly toying with slashing the subsidies they offer domestic solar-panel buyers. Mr. Gao’s business dried up, and he laid off half his workers. “I have been working hard and was just off to a good start,” he said. “Now I have to start over.”

去年夏末,中国官员开始公开考虑削减他们给国内太阳能电池板买家提供的补贴。高松的公司业务枯竭,裁掉了一半的工人。“我辛辛苦苦几年,好不容易开了个好头,”他说。“现在又得重头再来。”

China’s solar-panel makers cut their prices by more than a quarter to compensate, sending global prices plummeting. Western companies found themselves unable to compete, and cut jobs from Germany to Michigan to Texas and points beyond.

中国的太阳能电池板制造商将产品降价逾四分之一,对补贴的减少做出补偿,这导致全球价格暴跌。西方企业发现自己无法与之竞争,从德国到密西根到德克萨斯,各地都在裁员。

Those points included Perrysburg — where Mr. Abney and about 450 other employees suddenly found themselves out of work. “Within just a few months, it all came crashing down,” Mr. Abney said. “It’s like a death in the family. People feel awkward talking about it.”

其中包括佩里斯堡,也就是阿布尼和大约450名员工突然失业的地方。“不到几个月,一切都坍塌了,”阿布尼说。“就像家人去世一样。人们谈起它会感到尴尬。”

President Trump, who pressed President Xi Jinping of China on trade and other issues this week when they met at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., has vowed to end what he calls China’s unfair business practices. Much of his oratory has involved old-fashioned smokestack industries like steel — industries in which the jobs were already disappearing even before the rise of China.

特朗普总统曾承诺结束他所说的中国的不公平商业行为——本周在佛罗里达州棕榈滩的马阿拉歌庄园与中国国家主席习近平会晤时,他曾在贸易等问题上向后者施压。特朗普的豪言壮语主要涉及钢铁等老式烟囱工业,这些行业的工作机会早在中国崛起之前就开始消失。

But economists and business groups warn that China’s industrial ambitions have entered a new, far-reaching phase. With its deep government pockets, growing technical sophistication and a comprehensive plan to free itself from dependence on foreign companies, China aims to become dominant in industries of the future like renewable energy, big data and self-driving cars.

但经济学家和商业团体发出警告,称中国的工业雄心已经进入了一个影响深远的新阶段。凭借政府雄厚的财力、日渐成熟的技术和让自身摆脱对外企依赖的综合计划,中国有意成为再生能源、大数据和自驾车等未来产业的主导者。

With solar, it has already happened. China is now home to two-thirds of the world’s solar-production capacity. The efficiency with which its products convert sunlight into electricity is increasingly close to that of panels made by American, German and South Korean companies. Because China also buys half of the world’s new solar panels, it now effectively controls the market.

在太阳能方面,这种情况已经发生。中国现在拥有占世界三分之二的太阳能产能。其产品将阳光转化为电力的效率越来越接近美国、德国和韩国公司生产的面板。由于中国还购买了全球一半的新太阳能电池板,所以现在实际上控制了这个市场。

For much of the past century, the ups and downs of the American economy could spell the difference between employment or poverty for people like Chilean copper miners and Malaysian rubber farmers. Now China’s policy shifts and business decisions can have the same kind of global impact once wielded by power brokers in Washington, New York and Detroit.

在过去一个世纪的大部分时间里,美国经济的起伏可能会决定智利铜矿工人或马来西亚橡胶农民的就业抑或贫困。现在中国的政策转变和商业决策,也可能会产生一度由华盛顿、纽约和底特律的权力中间人所带来的这种全球影响。

The story of China’s rise in solar panels illustrates the profound difficulties the country presents to Mr. Trump, or to any American president. Its size and fast-moving economy give it the ability to redefine industries almost on a dime. Its government-led pursuit of dominance in crucial industries presents a direct challenge to countries where leaders generally leave business decisions to the businesses themselves.

中国太阳能电池板崛起的故事,展现了这个国家给特朗普或任何美国总统构成的严重困扰。它的规模和快速发展的经济使它能够很快重新定义各种产业。在政府主导之下,它追求在关键行业内的统治地位,对于那些领导者通常让企业自身做出商业决策的国家来说,这构成一个直接的挑战。

Already, China is the world’s largest maker and buyer of steel, cars and smartphones. While it does not necessarily dominate those industries, its government ministries are moving to replicate that success with robots, chips and software — just as in solar.

中国已经是世界上最大的钢铁、汽车和智能手机制造者与买家。虽然它不一定主导这些行业,但其政府部门正在复制机器人、芯片和软件领域的成功——和在太阳能方面一样。

Chinese panel makers “have the capital, they have the technology, they have the scale,” said Ocean Yuan, the chief executive of Grape Solar, a distributor of solar panels based in Eugene, Ore. Of American rivals, he said, “they will crush them.”

中国太阳能电池板厂商“拥有资本,拥有技术,拥有规模”,位于俄勒冈尤金的太阳能电池板分销商Grape Solar公司首席执行官袁海洋(Ocean Yuan)说。至于美国的竞争对手,他说:“他们会击垮他们。”

Before he became one of the solar industry’s most powerful players, Liu Hanyuan raised fish.

在成为太阳能行业最强大的玩家之一之前,刘汉元养鱼为生。

The son of peasants from China’s hardscrabble southwest, Mr. Liu sold some of the family’s pigs in 1983 for what was then around $100 to buy some fish. Soon he went into the even more lucrative business of selling fish feed, and he eventually moved into pig feed and duck feed. The brand name, Keli, is a combination of the first and last Chinese characters from a famous paraphrasing of Karl Marx by Deng Xiaoping, the father of modern China: Science and technology are primary productive forces.

刘汉元出身中国穷困的西南部地区一个农民家庭,1983年,他卖了家里养的几头猪,换来当时约合100美元的现金,买了一些鱼。他很快就进入了更加有利可图的鱼饲料销售行业,最终进入了猪饲料和鸭饲料行业。他的品牌名称“科力”来自“科学技术是第一生产力”的第一个字和最后一个字,这是现代中国之父邓小平对卡尔·马克思(Karl Marx)理论的著名释义。

According to Mr. Liu’s authorized biography, he faced local criticism at first for his early embrace of capitalism, and responded by saying that his fish feed was an improved product that followed Deng’s dictum. “When my business grows bigger,” he said at the time, “I will build another floor for labs.”

据刘汉元的授权传记,起先他因为早早接受资本主义,在当地遭到批评,他回应说,自己的鱼饲料是遵循了邓小平理论的改良产品。“等我的业务有了发展壮大,”他当时说,“我就多盖一层楼当实验室。”

Plans to shift into computer chips did not pan out, so by 2006, he shifted to solar technology, after taking control of a company that made chemicals for the production of polysilicon, the crystalline raw material for solar panels. That move proved fortunate: China was just then embarking on a concerted effort to become a solar-industry powerhouse.

转行进入计算机芯片行业的努力并没成功,所以到了2006年,他转向了太阳能技术,控制了一家生产用于制造多晶硅的化学原料的公司,多晶硅是构成太阳能电池板的一种结晶原料。这一举动证明是幸运的:当时的中国正展开全方位合作,致力于成为一个太阳能产业大国。

Over the next six years, Beijing pushed state-owned banks to provide at least $18 billion in loans at low-interest rates to solar-panel manufacturers, and encouraged local governments to subsidize them with cheap land. China had more on its mind than just dominating solar exports: Its severe pollution problems and concerns that rising sea levels from climate change could devastate its teeming coastal cities lent urgency to efforts to develop green technology. At the same time, China also became a major player in wind power through similar policies.

在接下来的六年里,北京推动国有银行以低利率向太阳能电池板制造商提供至少180亿美元的贷款,鼓励地方政府用廉价的土地资助这些制造商。中国希望的不仅仅是主导太阳能出口:它有严重的污染问题,而且担心气候变化导致的海平面上升可能会破坏沿海许多城市,因此迫切需要开发绿色技术。与此同时,中国也通过类似的政策成为风电的主要参与者。

With ample assistance, China’s solar-power production capacity expanded more than tenfold from 2007 to 2012. Now six of the top 10 solar-panel makers are Chinese, including the top two, compared with none a decade ago. The solar division of Mr. Liu’s company, the Tongwei Group, which discloses few financial details, is one of the fastest-expanding players in the industry.

在这样的大量协助之下,从2007年到2012年,中国的太阳能发电量有了十倍以上的增长。世界十大太阳能电池板生产商中有六个来自中国,其中包括前两名,要知道,十年前的十大生产商中还没有一家中国公司。刘汉元公司的太阳能分公司通威集团极少披露财务细节,它是业内增长最快的企业之一。

That growth forced many American and European solar-panel manufacturers into a headlong retreat. Two dozen of them filed for bankruptcy or cut back operations during President Barack Obama’s first term, damaging the heady optimism then about clean energy.

这种增长迫使美国和欧洲的许多太阳能电池板制造商仓促撤退。在贝拉克·奥巴马总统的第一个任期内,有数十家太阳能电池板制造商申请破产或削减业务,挫伤了当时人们对清洁能源的狂热乐观情绪。

In 2012 and 2013, the United States and the European Union concluded that Chinese solar-panel makers were collecting government subsidies and dumping panels, or selling them for less than the cost of producing and shipping them. Both imposed import limits. Chinese manufacturers and officials denied improper subsidies and dumping, and still do.

2012年和2013年,美国和欧盟认为中国的太阳能电池板制造商获得政府补贴,倾销电池板,也就是以低于生产和运输成本的价格出售。两者都实行了进口限制。中国制造商和官员否认不当补贴和倾销,而且依然在这样做。

Several large Chinese manufacturers that had previously overexpanded and had been selling at heavy losses for years then closed their doors. But Western solar companies say Chinese banks still lent heavily to the survivors despite low loan-recovery rates from the defaults of big Chinese solar companies like Suntech, Chaori and LDK Solar.

过度扩张、多年严重亏损的几家中国大型制造商后来倒闭。但西方太阳能公司称,尽管尚德、超日和赛维LDK等出现债务违约的中国大型太阳能公司的贷款回收率很低,中国的银行依然向存活下来的企业发放大量贷款。

“The main subsidy is massive, below-market loans by Chinese state-owned commercial banks to finance new capacity and also the massive ongoing losses of Chinese companies,” said Jürgen Stein, the president of American operations for SolarWorld, a big German panel maker.

“主要补贴是中国国有商业银行的大量低于市场水平的贷款,它们为中国企业的新产能和持续巨额亏损提供资金,”德国大型太阳能面板制造商SolarWorld的美国业务总裁于尔根·施泰因(Jürgen Stein)表示。

Li Junfeng, a top architect of China’s renewable-energy policies until he retired from that responsibility in early January, said that the West had exaggerated the role of the state in helping to finance Chinese solar-panel manufacturers. “The market can decide for itself,” he said. “The good companies can get money, the bad companies cannot.”

李俊峰曾是中国可再生能源政策的首席规划者,直到今年1月初退休。他表示,西方国家夸大了中国政府在资助太阳能电池板制造商方面起到的作用。“市场会自行决定,”他说,“好公司能赚钱,坏公司不能。”

Like the Chinese solar industry as a whole, Tongwei is thinking bigger.

和中国的整个太阳能产业一样,通威在考虑做得更大。

Mr. Liu’s company bought an enormous solar-panel manufacturing complex in central China in 2013 from LDK Solar, which had run into severe financial difficulties. Now it plans to build factories of five gigawatts apiece in the Chinese cities of Chengdu and Hefei. By comparison, the entire global market is only about 77 gigawatts each year, while world capacity is 139 gigawatts.

2013年,刘汉元的公司在中国中部从赛维LDK手中买下了一个庞大的太阳能电池板制造群——赛维LDK陷入了严重的财务困难。现在,刘的公司计划在中国的成都市和合肥市分别建设一个产能为5千兆瓦的工厂。相比之下,整个全球市场每年只有77千兆瓦产能,而全世界的产能是139千兆瓦。

At the same time, Mr. Liu is dismissive of companies in the West that pioneered many solar technologies but have lost their market shares to China. “They are very jealous,” he said, “and cannot catch up with China’s pace.”

与此同时,刘汉元对西方的公司表示不屑,他们开创了许多太阳能技术,却把很多市场份额输给了中国。“他们羡慕嫉妒,”他说,“但就是赶不上中国的速度。”

From an environmental standpoint, China’s solar push has been good for the world. Solar-panel prices have fallen close to 90 percent over the past decade. Many of the solar panels in America’s backyards and solar power plants are made by Chinese companies.

从环境角度讲,中国对太阳能的推动对全世界来说是有利的。太阳能电池板的价格在过去十年里下降了近90%。美国家庭后院和太阳能发电厂的许多太阳能电池板都是中国公司制造的。

But for the solar industry, Chinese expansion could mean an extended period of low prices and cutbacks for everybody else.

但对太阳能产业来说,中国人的开疆拓土可能意味着价格在很长一段时间里都处于低位,其他所有人都要收缩。

“The solar industry is facing again, I would say, a new winter,” said Patrick Pouyanné, the chairman and chief executive of Total, the French oil and gas giant, which owns a controlling stake in SunPower, an American solar-panel maker.

“我得说,太阳能产业正面临又一个冬天,”法国石油天然气巨头道达尔(Total)董事长兼首席执行官潘彦磊(Patrick Pouyanné)说。道达尔拥有美国太阳能面板制造商SunPower的控股权。

China now hopes to replicate its solar industry’s growth in other areas.

中国眼下希望将其太阳能产业的增长复制到其他领域。

Under a plan called Made in China 2025, China hopes to become largely self-sufficient within seven years in a long list of industries, including aircraft, high-speed trains, computer chips and robots. The plan echoes the solar-panel and wind-turbine buildup a decade ago, but with a larger checkbook. Made in China 2025 calls for roughly $300 billion in financial backing: inexpensive loans from state-owned banks, investment funds to acquire foreign technologies, and extensive research subsidies.

按照一项名为“中国制造2025”的计划,中国希望于7年内在多个产业基本实现自给自足,其中包括飞机、高铁、计算机芯片和机器人。该计划与十年前的太阳能电池板和风力涡轮机热潮相呼应,但要动用更多资金。“中国制造2025”大约需要3000亿美元的资金支持:包括来自国有银行的低息贷款,用于获取外国技术的投资基金,以及大量研究补贴。

If successful, Made in China 2025 would represent a fundamental shift in how China deals with the world. Initially, most of the industries that moved to China, such as shoe and clothing production, were already leaving the United States anyway. Heavy industries such as steel followed. While the shift was profound — some economists estimate that up to 2.4 million American jobs were lost to China from 1999 to 2011, though others dispute that analysis — China has struggled in some areas like autos to create viable global competitors.

“中国制造2025”若取得成功,便意味着中国与世界打交道的方式发生根本性转变。最初转移到中国的大多数产业,比如制鞋和制衣,本就正在远离美国。随后是钢铁之类的重工业。这种产业转移具有深远影响——一些经济学家估计,1999至2011年间,多达240万个工作岗位从美国流向了中国,不过也有一些人对此表示怀疑——但中国在汽车等某些领域一直难以培养出能在全球市场独立生存的竞争者。

American and European business groups have warned that the China 2025 plan means that a much wider range of Western businesses will face the same kind of government-backed competition that has already transformed the solar industry.

美国和欧洲的商业团体一直警告称,“中国制造2025”计划将让更大范围内的西方企业面临已经改变了太阳能产业的那种有政府背景的竞争。

“The policies started in solar and are now starting to infect the higher reaches of the economy with Made in China 2025,” said Jeremie Waterman, the president of the China Center at the United States Chamber of Commerce in Washington.

“这些政策始于太阳能产业,目前随着‘中国制造2025’的实施,开始在较高的经济层面发挥影响力,”华盛顿美国商会(United States Chamber of Commerce)大中华区主任王杰(Jeremie Waterman)说。

In the end, China did not slash subsidies for rooftop solar panels, and cut them only slightly for large power-plant arrays. But prices barely rebounded from last year’s slump.

最终,中国没有大幅削减对屋顶的太阳能板的补贴,只是轻微削减了对电厂的大型太阳能板阵列的补贴。但价格几乎没有从去年的低谷反弹。

Mr. Gao, of Wuhan, is a slender 37-year-old whose dark hair is already thinning. He said that his business had depended not on homeowners but on profit-minded investors who made use of the subsidies.

武汉的高松现年37岁,身材消瘦,头上的黑发已经变得稀疏。他说他的生意所仰仗的并不是业主,而是希望利用补贴牟利的投资者。

The investors would pay three-fifths of the cost of a homeowner’s system. The homeowner would take only enough electricity from the panels to power the home. The investor would sell the rest of the electricity to the grid at a high, government-assisted price.

这些投资者会为业主的太阳能面板系统支付五分之三的费用。太阳能板发的电有一部分被业主用来满足自家的用电需求。剩余的电力则被投资者以得到政府补贴的高价卖给电网。

The suggestion that the government might cut the subsidy, even though the government did not follow through on it, panicked his investors. So they stopped financing further deals.

政府或许会削减补贴的迹象——尽管政府并未如此行事——让他的投资者感到惶恐。因此他们不再为以后的交易提供资金支持。

“They fear that the year after next, they may have nothing,” he said. He recently hired four more employees to drum up sales, even as installations creep along at a small fraction of demand a year ago.

“他们担心,一年一年地,最后他们什么都拿不到了,”他说。尽管需求跟一年前比只是个零头,安装量很低,他最近还是又招了四个人以便提振销售。

In Perrysburg, Mr. Abney lost his job at First Solar, the largest solar-panel manufacturer based in the United States, and looked in vain for a job in the auto industry in the Toledo area. He ended up taking a job three weeks ago at a building materials company in Lancaster, Pa. His daughter is going off to college in the autumn, while his wife and son, a high school freshman now, will follow him to central Pennsylvania this summer.

在佩里斯堡,阿布尼丢掉了自己在美国最大的太阳能面板生产企业第一太阳能(First Solar)的工作,一度徒劳地想要在托莱多地区的汽车行业谋个差事。他最终于三周前接受了宾夕法尼亚州兰开斯特一家建筑材料公司的工作邀约。他的女儿将于今年秋天离开家去上大学,而他的妻子和目前念高一的儿子将追随他的脚步,于今年夏天搬到宾夕法尼亚中部。

“It’s hardest on him because we’re pulling him away from his high school and his activities,” Mr. Abney said.

“这对他来说是最困难的,因为我们将硬生生地把他带离他的高中以及他熟悉的生活,”阿布尼说。

First Solar struggled with improving Chinese technology as well as dropping prices.

中国的技术水平不断提高,再加上价格不断下降,让第一太阳能公司面临着重重困难。

It laid off workers in Perrysburg partly because it decided not to produce its Series 5 generation of panels, which represented a limited improvement over its existing Series 4 panels. First Solar, to better compete with Chinese producers, will wait for its lower-cost, high-efficiency Series 6 panels to be ready for production in 2018. In the end, First Solar, which is based in Tempe, Ariz., laid off 1,600 people worldwide.

它在佩里斯堡裁员,部分是因为决定放弃生产第五代太阳能面板——第五代产品只在第四代基础上做了有限的改进。为了更好地和中国厂商竞争,第一太阳能将等待其成本低、效能高的第六代产品准备就绪,在2018年投产。最终,总部位于亚利桑那州坦佩的第一太阳能在世界范围内裁掉了1600人。

“It’s just kind of a shock factor when a lot of families realize they’re no longer going to have a job,” said Michael Olmstead, the Republican mayor of Perrysburg.

“当很多人意识到自己不再有工作的时候,肯定很震惊,”佩里斯堡市的共和党市长迈克尔·奥姆斯特德(Michael Olmstead)说。

Though Mr. Abney has started his new job at almost the same pay as his previous one, he says part of him pined for the days when the United States still led in solar energy, and when First Solar was at the forefront of that leadership.

阿布尼已经开始了新工作,薪水和前一份工作差不多,但他说,每每想起从前的日子,他就颇为伤感——美国那时候还在太阳能产业当中占据着领导地位,第一太阳能则居于那种领导地位的最前端。

“They were good for us,” he said. “And it was great while it lasted.”

“从前的日子对我们来说很美好,”他说。“可惜好景不长。”

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