China's "Go West" strategy, launched just before the country's entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001, has been a milestone in the nation's economic development.The aim was to boost the poorer western parts of the country that had so far not enjoyed the economic benefits of China's opening up to the outside world.Since then, some $325 billion has been invested in major infrastructure projects in the western region, one of the biggest economic regeneration programs of all time. (From 'Go West' policy is an economic milestone for nation, China Daily, December 9, 2011).
New-energy-related industries will be the main contributor to growth in copper consumption during the next five years, according to the International Copper Association.
Meanwhile, low-carbon-related businesses, including solar and wind power generation equipment as well as electric vehicles and batteries, will contribute at least 20 percent of that increase, Victor Zhou, the association's China and Southeast Asia president, said at the International Metal Solar Industry Alliance conference in Beijing.
An electrified society will hugely boost demand for copper, according to Zhou. Use of copper in wind and solar power equipment could be four-to-six times higher than that in coal-fired projects, he added. But cables, which consume more than one million tons of copper, will remain the largest contributor to consumption.
Aluminum is not a substitute for copper in electric power systems. Komesaroff explains why: With 62% of copper's conductivity, aluminum transformers would have to be much larger than copper ones. Aluminum cannot handle fluctuating magnetic forces as well as copper suggesting the possibility of a high failure rate from broken windings. Copper is much easier to work with than aluminum. Aluminum windings require more specialty steel in the transformer core, again adding to the cost. Many authorities prohibit the use of aluminum wire because it may present a safety hazard when overheated or when connections loosen. And, in any case, substitution is a long term problem rather than an immediate concern. More over the difference in the coefficient of thermal expansion causes aluminum to expand and contract at a different rate to copper which is used in fittings. Aluminum is subject to creep (it ¡deforms) under sustained pressure and more so at high temperature. Lastly, the use of copper avoids corrosion from use of dissimilar materials. Even if all of these problems could be overcome, substituting aluminum for copper is a very long term action; and indeed, there is little evidence of substitution.
So the immediate future--China will continue to put pressure on global copper markets raising copper pricing as its seeks to expand its pose infrastructure and as new uses for copper make the metal more useful to industry. Aluminum serves as an example of the connection between public policy--in this case the management of the western provinces of China, and economic policy. In both cases, Chinese domestic policy appears to increasingly produce global effects on markets and production.