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China gets to grips with the new geopolitics of oil
The western media seem obsessed with China’s alleged ‘unquenchable thirst’ for oil. In reality, China consumes only slightly more crude oil than Japan, and for the moment depends on oil much less than many other economies. Its ‘unquenchable thirst’ may be only political propaganda. Nonetheless, the lesson of the war in Iraq has forced China to diversify its sources of supply as much as possible, to acquire oil interests in various parts of the world and to worry about the future strategic and military security of its hydrocarbon supplies. The main threat for China could come from a clash with the USA. Many American neocons are speaking increasingly openly — and also seem to hope for — a long-term conflict with China on the pretext of the Chinese ‘threat’ to American energy security. At present, China might interpret US strategic initiatives in the Middle East (in Iraq and Iran, for example) as a major encirclement manoeuvre to block access to the sources of oil and gas that are geographically closest. However, Abdullah the King of Saudi Arabia’s recent visit to Beijing could prove to be a political turning point, marking a possible seismic shift in Saudi interests towards Asia in general and China in particular — much to the concern of the United States.