China is the world’s largest consumer of energy, but it’s also the number one importer of oil, and relies heavily on foreign sources of natural gas and coal as well. It’s slowly starting to develop its offshore reserves of oil and gas, and while it is estimated to have the world’s largest recoverable reserves of shale gas by a long shot, it has yet to crack the formula for America’s fracking success. So Beijing is looking abroad to places like Moscow—with whom it signed a $400 billion gas deal yesterday—but also to resource-rich nations in the developing world. The New York Times reports:
China’s reliance on imports poses the same kind of foreign policy challenges that the United States has faced in recent decades. That is, the country must look to unstable areas of the world to meet its needs. […]China has been receiving fewer crude shipments from Libya, Sudan and South Sudan. The Energy Department recently reported that China has nimbly replaced those declining sources with imports from Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Angola, Venezuela, Russia and Iraq.
Perhaps most notable among China’s foreign forays are its investments in southern hemisphere nations. It has become a key investor in and architect of development in Africa, and is now enduring the headaches that come with such involvement, as it tries to broker a peace between Sudan and South Sudan.Washington must be watching these developments with a wary eye, keen of protecting its strategic interests in parts of the world where, until recently, Uncle Sam has been the only major global power to maintain an active interest. But if we’re moving to a multi-polar world, as so many have predicted, there are benefits to be reaped from China’s bigger role on the world stage. In protecting its supply chain of energy and other resources, Beijing is also protecting the stability of the world order. Every dollar it spends and headache it endures as a result are a dollar and a headache that Washington is spared.The role of global peacekeeper is a heavy burden, and we should be welcoming China’s decision to share the load. After all, we’ll get to reap the benefits of a liberal global economy while doing less to maintain it.