01 November 2007

Beijing’s Energy Security Strategy: The Significance of a Chinese State-Owned Tanker Fleet

Andrew S. Erickson and Gabriel B. Collins, “Beijing’s Energy Security Strategy: The Significance of a Chinese State-Owned Tanker Fleet,” Foreign Policy Research InstituteOrbis 51.4 (Fall 2007): 665-84.

Chinese shipping firms are aggressively expanding their oil tanker fleets. Although China’s state energy firms support national energy security goals in their rhetoric, and China’s state shipbuilders are striving to lead global production, commercial forces will almost certainly determine how these ships are employed. However, energy security considerations may have some influence in determining China’s naval force structure. The majority of new tankers being built for Chinese shipping firms will fly China’s flag, which helps set a legal basis for militarily protecting these vessels. As Chinese naval power and oil import dependency rise, security-minded factions in China’s leadership may use the country’s resource needs to justify further pursuit of blue water naval capabilities. … …


  1. Abstract
  2. China’s Oil Imports and Tanker Buildup
  3. Beyond Taiwan
  4. Why an Expanded Tanker Fleet?
  5. The Malacca Dilemma
  6. Commercial Factors
  7. Shipping Sector Parallels with Oil Company-Central Government Relations
  8. China’s Shipbuilding Industry
  9. Benefits for Oil Import Infrastructure
  10. Can a Larger Tanker Fleet Ensure Oil Security?
  11. Tanker Protection Options
  12. Implications of Further Chinese Naval Development
  13. Calling an Opponent’s Bluff
  14. Security Implications
  15. Conclusion
  16. Vitae

Andrew Erickson is a professor in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI), Strategic Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island.

Gabe Collins is a research fellow in the CMSI who focuses on energy and shipbuilding. The content of this analysis does not necessarily reflect official U.S. Government assessments or policies.