Last week, one of the world’s biggest, most expensive, and technically fraught oil fields produced its first barrel of oil. Kashagan, as the field is called, is located in Kazakhstan, in the North Caspian Sea, and was developed by a consortium of energy giants that shared the massive risk of pouring in $50 billion and a decade of legwork. Obviously the field is a boon to Kazakhstan, but China is also coming out on top, as the NYT reports:
Here in Kazakhstan, the most prosperous of the former Soviet republics, Mr. Xi formalized the $5 billion deal for Kashagan, which for the first time places China in a consortium alongside the big international players: Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and the Italian company ENI.
President Xi Jinping was in the region recently to celebrate, another indication that China’s influence has eclipsed even Russia’s across the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.China’s urgent quest for energy is the main driver of its strategic interest in a region whose proximity allows huge reserves of oil and gas to be moved overland through Chinese-built pipelines rather than by ship through American-dominated sea lanes from the Middle East.
The NYT goes on to list Chinese energy projects in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which together with the Kashagan deal make for a significant push westward for the energy-hungry giant. A lot of Beijing’s increased involvement in eastern Europe is coming at the expense of Moscow, which has seen its former Soviet states buck its bullying influence recently. China’s hunger is trumping Russia’s complacency.