The Tangshanpeng Wind Farm in China. Flickr/Land Rover Our Planet, CC BY-SA. [Inset] Professor John Mathews.
The Tangshanpeng Wind Farm in China. Flickr/Land Rover Our Planet, CC BY-SA. [Inset] Professor John Mathews.

Research spotlight

Professor John Mathews | Professor of Management, MGSM

How long have you been a researcher at Macquarie?
I have been teaching and researching at Macquarie since 1998.

I was drawn to research because…
I have always seen the social sciences as being evidence-based explorations of social worlds and the possibilities they contain. Right now my interest is focused on the growing influence of renewable energies around the world, and particularly in China.

What would be an ‘elevator pitch’ of your research area?
For several years my research focused on the rise of newly industrialised economies in East Asia, particularly Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, and on how they deployed smart strategies of technology leverage to catch up with the advanced economies.

Now my focus is on how China is doing the same thing, but at a vastly greater scale – and with a deliberate focus on the physical realities of its industrialisation process. This means looking at how China is building a fresh energy system based on renewables which complement its earlier dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear; and its circular economy to enhance resource efficiency.

In layman’s terms, what is the wider impact of your research?
The wider impact of this research is that it studies how countries can escape “carbon lock-in” created by fossil fuels and build their industrial systems around the manufacturing of renewables, which in this way offer superior energy security. At the same time, this strategy will lead to energy systems that have lower carbon emissions.

In ten years I see my research…
In ten years I see my research contributing to understanding how a giant economy like China’s, and following that the economy of India, can raise incomes for billions of people without costing the earth.

My favourite and/or most proud research moment was when…
On September 11 2014, when I saw that Nature published a commentary article on these themes from myself and collaborator Dr Hao Tan.

Read more about John’s recent article.