Monday, May 23, 2005

China's Oil Dilemma

Jane's has another interesting article about China again. This time it is about China's strategy to expand its influence in Southeast Asia. With the increasing energy dependance on the Middle East for China, it is seen as necessary to be able to keep the Straights of Malacca from being closed to the flow of oil. Right now China is unable to do so. Should there ever be a situation where a hostile power should oppose that flow - like say a tussle with the US over Taiwan - 32% of China's oil supply gets cut off. That'd be crippling. China had been thinking that it would not seek a first rate blue water navy until the 2050s, but with its rising energy needs either it will have to move that goal to the nearer term or seek basing agreements with some of the nations in SEA.

They're not likely to accomodate this...willingly. Vietnam already fought a war with China in the 1970s (and clobbered her). Laos has a 'problem' with Chinese settlers coming in and doing better than the locals making the all the more sensative about China. Thailand has a historical head butting with China. IDK about what Cambodia's relations with China are, so i shall refrain from commenting. Myanmar would probably be cooperative, but with a rising India, it might be a little cautious.

The Rise of China will be interesting to watch. She has a lot of pitfalls to avoid. Many of them are not the same ones that the West has already encountered. Having an ubersquared size population makes industrializing the way the West did in the past a little more difficult and there are some radically different technologies available now then we had then. The environment is going to be one of the biggies that China will have to be concerned about. Alternate energy sources would be another. We'll see how the Three Gorges Dam project works out: a friend of mine that goes to China on a regular basis - since his wife is a Chinese citizen - has expressed some concerns about the construction quality of the dam itself. He actually expects it to fail in the relatively soon after its finished.

Right now, the USA is the lone superpower[1] and is expanding its economic influence further in the Western Hemisphere. Europe is rising, but has a different set of priorities that seem, at least to me superficially, to be more inward looking. China and India are also rising. Russia has decayed and may fall further and further behind. Japan is attempting a fascinating transition in its economy. If it works, it may decouple at least a portion of the relation between population and economic capability. If it suceeds, it might rise up to one of the superpowers itself.

Definitely the 21st Century looks to be interesting.

1. Hyperpower is, uh, an overblown term here folks. If we could clobber the NKers and Iranians at the same time keeping our current undertakings from be undermanned, I'd agree with the idea and position, but we can't unless we greatly expand our military and at this point that'd compromise quality far too much.

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