Editor’s Note: Geoff Hiscock is a former Asia Business Editor of CNN.com and the author of “Earth Wars: The Battle for Global Resources,” published by Wiley.
China's new leader has taken extraordinary steps to secure future energy supplies
President Xi Jinping's first state visit was to ink an energy deal with Russia
Follows a spate of Chinese oil and gas investments in Africa, the Middle East and Australia
China overtook the United States as the world's biggest energy user in 2009
China’s energy imports are so fundamental to its survival and development that China’s new leadership has taken extraordinary steps to secure future supplies.
In a flurry of official visits over the past two months involving President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, China has sought to bolster its energy relations with big strategic neighbors Russia and India, key energy exporters Indonesia, Brunei and South Africa, emerging resources suppliers such as Tanzania and the Republic of Congo in Africa, and renewable energy pioneer Germany.
In addition, China hosted a visit by Australian leader Julia Gillard, whose discussions with Xi and Li touched on clean energy expertise and the burgeoning resources trade between the two countries.
China’s push for energy security and its willingness to buy assets around the globe may drive up costs for other energy importers like India, Japan, South Korea and Europe. They will have to compete with China through a combination of co-operation, conservation and technological advances.
But Xi maintains that China’s investments are creating development opportunities for the rest of Asia and the world.
“The rest of Asia and the world cannot enjoy prosperity and stability without China,” Xi told the Boao Forum held on the Chinese island of Hainan island last month.
Next week, Xi will visit the oil and gas-rich countries of Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago. He will follow that with a two-day summit with U.S. President Barack Obama in California on June 7-8, where a packed agenda of political and commercial issues almost certainly will touch on energy.
China’s big three state-owned oil and gas entities CNPC, CNOOC and Sinopec already are investors in North American energy assets.
There has been a spate of Chinese oil and gas investments in Africa, the Middle East, Russia and Australia – part of a multi-pronged push for the world’s second largest economy to meet its energy needs.
In Moscow, Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to cooperate on oil and gas pipeline developments from Siberia to China, while state-owned Rosneft struck a deal with China’s biggest oil and gas producer, China National Petroleum Corp, giving CNPC access to Arctic resources.
CNPC also agreed to buy more oil from Rosneft under a new 25-year loan deal, and to work with Russia’s biggest gas exporter Gazprom on a new gas pipeline into China.
“Chinese-Russian cooperation in energy is manifold, comprehensive and full-fledged,” Xi said.
But price, technology and the environment may all conspire to limit the China-Russia energy trade. The harsh operating conditions and environmental hazards of the Arctic may limit chances for cooperation. Big projects such as Yamal LNG in northwest Siberia are behind schedule because of the limited Arctic infrastructure.
As the technology improves, China stands to benefit from gas and oil shipments via the Arctic Northern Sea Route, but that will require massive investments in icebreakers and ice strengthened tankers.
China is spreading its energy bets, not wanting to become too reliant on any one place giv