Will the smart cities of the future rise first in China? Big U.S. utility Duke Energy became the latest partner in China’s smart city ambitions this week, saying it would work with Chinese clean energy company ENN Group, which has an “eco-city” project underway in Langfang near Beijing, to find ways to link green energy generation with energy storage, smart building and smart grid systems and electric vehicle infrastructure. That sounds a bit like the broad range of smart grid, EV and consumer energy management work IBM is tackling with China’s massive State Grid Corp. of China and other local partners. Likewise, General Electric has Chinese projects including efforts to improve distribution grid reliability, demonstrate model smart grid technologies and develop smart grid standards. China’s massive and growing urban centers are going to need a lot of help to stay sustainable, making the broad goals of linking up city power, water and gas generation and delivery systems, building management and controls, traffic and parking management and other municipal systems with next-generation communications and IT a pressing task for the government.