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China's Energy Security

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorApril 16, 2010 1:36 AM


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Over the last year, Thomas Friedman has frequently promoted China's green face to the world. Perhaps it's time the esteemed NYT columnist and foreign policy specialist began paying attention to the other China, the one that's been on a fossil fuel buying spree the past few years. There's even a nifty climate change angle for Friedman, should he take a look at China's latest Canadian foray, confirmed this week: a $4.65 billion deal that gives China another sizable helping of Canada's Oil Sands pie. I can understand all the continuing interest in China's green tech investment. What I don't understand is why mainstream commentators pay little attention to China's continuing procurement of dirty energy reserves around the world. Friedman's blind spot seems especially curious given his focus on the nexus between national security and energy. And make no mistake, there are serious strategic implications, which some China watchers in DC have already noted. Those implications are being considered this week by some Canadian pols, according to The Globe and the Mail:

China's interest in Canada worries some Conservative MPs, who fear Beijing is out to put a lock on strategic resources. "If you buy both sides of the Panama Canal, it's not just money," observed Calgary Tory MP Rob Anders.

To which one Asian business official counters:

Nonsense, says Yuen Pau Woo, president of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. The evidence shows China's state-owned companies invest for commercial reasons, and vague fears of China's rise are behind the opposition.

Oh really? I think this is a more accurate take, from Shi Yan, a Shanghai-based energy analyst:

The policy of energy security is fundamental to the overseas acquisitions by Chinese oil companies. China's oil demand is increasing and domestic supplies cannot meet demand.

Like I said the other day, when some were touting the Iran/climate security angle, maybe it's time people started paying more attention to China's tangible pursuit of energy security. UPDATE: Roger Pielke Jr. picks up on a different tar sands development, which highlights an important contradiction in American energy policy.

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