Energy and Geopolitics in China: Mixing Oil and Politics

November 17, 2009 | 00:00

Energy and geopolitics in China: Mixing oil and politics

The world was surprised when China emerged in 2004 as a major importer and consumer of oil. Today, that surprise has been replaced by growing concern that the China of tomorrow may be in a position to challenge the United States not only for economic leadership but for political leadership as well.

Are these concerns justified? This report explores, among other issues, the limits to growth that currently confront China. The author analyzes how the country seeks to reduce its vulnerability deriving from its ever-increasing reliance on imports of oil, including the issue of diversity among sources of supply and how that supply moves to China. Threats to supply lines are examined and means to offset those threats are spelled out. In addition, the report considers China’s demographic dilemma—an population and declining birthrates—a challenge that may very well define China’s future.

Other fuels—coal, natural gas, nuclear energy—are examined in terms of current and likely future contributions to domestic supply. But it is those alternative forms of energy that appear to be attracting particular attention, in large part because of their role in helping China meet the goals of responding to global warming. The report concludes with a look at how China plans to secure its energy future. Do these plans differ from those of other countries? No, they do not.

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