Friday, June 10, 2005

China's Petrodiplomacy

Almost two weeks back, Taipei Times had an article entitled "China's 'energy diplomacy' hurts Taiwan, experts say." China's moves to secure a reliable energy supply to feed their rapidly growing energy consumption is considerably more interesting and important than that short article would lead a reader to believe.
If I could offer a sentence from Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat to set the scene:
China's foreign policy today consists of two things: preventing Taiwan from becoming independent and searching for oil. China is now obsessed with acquiring secure oil supplies from countries that would not retaliate against China if it invaded Taiwan, and this is driving China to get cozy with some of the worst regimes in the world. (409)
This is an issue of growing importance in the world. Don't worry about Neo-Malthusian predictions that America and China will be competing for a limited oil supply, thus leading to conflict. More worrying to non-Malthusians is China's growing dependence on oil imports, which has caused it to seek to strengthen its relations with oil producing nations, often through the use of arms sales. This increased consumption and geopolitical positioning will increasingly draw China into competition with the United States, but any resulting friction will likely have originated with arms trade, not issues specifically related to oil.
For an in depth examination of China's energy consumption, see Bernard Cole's Oil for the Lamps of China from NDU's McNair Papers series (available in HTML or PDF).