October 23, 2009

Weekly News Roundup: China’s Balance between Energy Security and Climate Cooperation

China has been pursuing a dual policy of energy security and climate change leadership. Several news reports this week chronicle China’s attempts to move forward aggressively on both fronts by working multilaterally. This global engagement on energy and climate change showcases China’s unique position in diplomatic engagements. They broker deals and negotiate with countries others walk away from.

The importance of energy security should not be underestimated as countries around the world bid on new sources of oil. Chinese companies have been moving somewhat aggressively to find new sources to fuel an increasing domestic demand. They have bid to enter the Gulf of Mexico, traditionally America’s turf, after having been rebuffed from a similar attempt two years ago (due to “national security” concerns). This time, American economic problems may make saying no a bit harder.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi cabinet has finally ratified the Rumaila oil field deal that will be jointly developed by British Petroleum and the China National Petroleum Corporation. As Chinese involvement in the country deepens, Iraqi lawmakers have warned of the instability associated with these oil deals. Risk taking does not seem to be a major problem for China however. China is currently in negotiations for a $30 billion dollar oil deal with Nigeria where it has been reported that the government is trying to quell the insurgency to attract broader Chinese investment. They have run into setbacks in other African countries recently and the president of the African Union complained that China is more concerned with resources than good governance on the continent.

In tandem with buying oil fields the world over, China has put a strong emphasis on reaching a global climate change agreement. The Chinese leadership has recognized the value in negotiating with other countries to ensure China’s stability when it comes to climate security. Although their meetings will not be underwater, Presidents Obama and Hu will meet next month, with climate change high on their agenda. President Hu told President Obama that climate cooperation will help build ties between their two nations. 

This is a message that China seems to be focused on spreading. They have been working with India to forge an agreement to either help the negotiations at Copenhagen or supplant them depending on who you believe. Either way China is making strong moves to be seen as an international player in climate change negotiations and to increase its bargaining power at the table.

Whether it’s engaging other countries to help supply fuel to their growing economy, or negotiating climate change agreements, China is showing itself to be a major player that cannot be ignored when making international agreements on energy and climate change.