12 May 2012

China and the Politics of Oil – Analysis

Jacqueline N. Deal, China and the Politics of Oil – Analysis,” Eurasia Review, 5 May 2012.

China faces a dilemma. Today China imports more than 50 percent of its oil, and that figure is expected to rise to 75-80 percent in the coming decades. As many experts have noted, China does not seem to feel comfortable relying on the international system and the continued operation of energy markets to meet its needs. To put this dilemma in context, let’s consider the history of great powers in the age of oil, then turn to China’s options for securing its imports, and conclude with some thoughts on the implications of Beijing’s choices for other states in Asia and for the United States. The analysis suggests that China is pursuing an indirect strategy designed to alter the geo-strategic map in China’s favor. …

Further details on one of the books cited here:

Gabriel B. Collins, Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, and William S. Murray, eds., China’s Energy Strategy: The Impact on Beijing’s Maritime Policies (Annapolis, MDNaval Institute Press, 2008).

  • Coming soon on Kindle!
  • China Ocean Press (www.oceanpress.com.cn) has purchased the simplified Chinese language rights and will soon publish an authorized Chinese-language edition.

Japanese language summary translation now available: “書籍3: 中国のエネルギー戦略–北京の海洋政策への影響.”


  • “Introduction,” pp. xi-xix;
  • with Gabriel Collins, of “Chinese Efforts to Create a National Tanker Fleet,” 81-114;
  • and, with Lyle Goldstein and Gabriel Collins, of “Chinese Naval Analysts Consider the Energy Question,” 299-335.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Dan Blumenthal, Concerns with Respect to China’s Energy Policy,”418-36.


China’s rapid growth has prompted Beijing to undertake an aggressive search for resources on a truly global scale. The resource most directly tied to continued growth in China is energy. Rising consumer appetites in China, coupled with occasional rolling blackouts due to spiraling demand in Chinese cities, have prompted intense anxieties in China concerning energy security. Since 80 percent of Chinese fossil fuel imports pass by ship through the Malacca Strait, an important component of Beijing’s concerns have come to be known in China as the“Malacca Dilemma.” This book draws on America’s finest experts in the fields of economics, energy, China studies, and naval strategy in order to explore China’s “Malacca Dilemma” and its implications for global maritime security. The essays in this volume draw from a wide variety of viewpoints, but a central theme of the analyses is that the United States needs to be concerned that China is drawing upon much of the world’s remaining oil reserves for its exclusive use. The resulting competition for this diminishing resource could lead to energy insecurity and may support other tendencies toward rivalry that in turn could foster a naval arms race neither side seeks. One of the major conclusions of this study is that there is, in fact, ample room for Sino-American energy dialogue and cooperation in the maritime domain and that the competition for limited energy sources like oil need not lead to conflict.


“This book is a comprehensive assessment of China’s overall and maritime energy security strategies; as important, it provides clear and detailed guides to judge the nature of future Chinese naval developments and overall Chinese security strategy.”

–Admiral Dennis Blair, U.S. Navy (Ret.), former Commander, U.S. Pacific Command

“…a necessary read for anyone interested in the future of the People’s Republic of China’s energy development and its strategic implications for the U.S., with particular attention to maritime development in both countries. The book tackles the prospects for China’s energy development in a remarkably comprehensive, nuanced fashion. It evaluates Chinese perspectives and prospects, analyzes the PRC’s capabilities in each relevant global region, and dissects the PLA Navy’s capabilities with respect to energy security issues. The authors, including those writing for the final section, which analyzes the implications for U.S. policy, carefully identify inevitable uncertainties and analytical disagreements. On balance, the book stresses the room for U.S.-China energy cooperation in the maritime domain. Importantly, it provides the rich array of data and analysis necessary for readers to develop their own deeply informed perspectives on this issue.”

–Dr. Kenneth Lieberthal, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan and former Senior Director for Asia on the National Security Council

“Comprehensive, diverse and essential for national security professionals… a subject we must understand clearly for our Asia-Pacific future.”

–Admiral Thomas B. Fargo, U.S. Navy (Ret.), former Commander, U.S. Pacific Command


“The China Maritime Studies Institute… is fast becoming a center of excellence for research on all aspects of the Chinese navy. … all the contributions are excellent… The beauty of this book comes in different forms. As the editors indicate in their introduction, the contributors do not always agree. … Important statistics are also provided. …provides the latest scholarship. Further enhancing the book’s value is that the contributors are all actively involved in shaping this multifaceted debate in their respective institutions. … This reviewer could not exaggerate the importance of this book in understanding the issues shaping the development of the Chinese navy.”

–Richard Desjardins (Canadian civil servant), Joint Force Quarterly, issue 57, second quarter (2010): 132-33.

“[the authors] have described the drivers of China’s quest for a limited power projection capability—and they did so well before Beijing’s December 2008 decision to deploy a series of task groups to the Gulf of Aden in order to protect shipping from an onslaught of pirate attacks. … This volume makes the case that Beijing’s desire to ensure steady and secure access to the energy resources required to continue the momentum of China’s economic growth will ‘compel the PLAN [People’s Liberation Army Navy] to be used increasingly in nonconflict situations in a wider variety of regions.’ The PLAN’s actions today certainly support this argument; Beijing’s naval task groups in the Gulf of Aden are operating thousands of miles from China to protect merchant shipping, much of which is transporting oil. … details how important maritime commerce is to China’s continued economic development.”

–Scott W. Bray (the U.S. Navy’s Senior Intelligence Officer for China), Turning to the Sea… This Time to Stay,” Book Review Essay, Asia Policy, No. 9 (January 2010): 167-72.

“…it is a relief to read a mass of carefully considered common sense such as is contained in this fine book. It is refreshing to be reminded that so many of America’s military, especially naval, intellectuals can be so clear headed and rational. …Defence planners and warriors who are currently or likely to be involved in the Indo-Pacific regions should study this book very carefully.”

Ships & Shipping (July 2009): 38.

“…the book is superb, rich in information and subtle analysis, and should be of interest to all students of geopolitics.”

–Arthur Waldron, Pacific Affairs, Vol. 82, No. 2 (Summer 2009): 328-30.

“The importance of the energy factor in politics today can hardly be called into question. … How much does… energy affect… military doctrine? How does the energy vulnerability of the state influence the modernization of the army? As far as China is concerned, these questions are answered at the beginning of the complex research by Gabriel Collins, Andrew Erickson, Lyle Goldstein, and William Murray…. This approach makes the book… exciting reading and gives a lot of food for thought and discussion. The authors are fellows of the U.S. Naval [War] College and are famous for their studies on various aspects of China’s energy strategy, including its impact on [the] maritime strategy of the country.”

–Yevgeny Petelin, “Energy at the Edge of War and Peace,” Security Index 87.15 (Spring 2009): 147-49.

“The editors achieve their task of examining China’s energy security and naval modernization and their impact on Sino-American relations. …this book is highly recommended.”

–Andrew Forbes, International Journal of Maritime History (December 2008): 478-79.

“…this is an invaluable book for anyone wanting to understand China’s economy in general and its maritime strategy in particular.”

–David N. Griffiths, Canadian Naval Review, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Fall 2008): 42-43.