Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mideast Turmoil: China Anxious Over Oil

South China Sea, with blue line added to show region claimed by China
as part of its sovereign territory, including oil and gas deposits

On Thursday, Libyan authorities sent a Chinese oil tanker back to China without its intended cargo of 2 million barrels of oil, according to Reuters. The ship will go to Algeria instead, to purchase oil there.

Events like this, arising out of the turmoil in the Mideast, are of great concern to China because of its enormous dependence on imported oil.

China imports about 2.9 million barrels of oil a day from the Mideast, including 1.1 million barrels a day from Saudi Arabia alone, according to the Wall Street Journal (Access). So the turmoil in the Mideast, and especially in Saudi Arabia, represents something of an existential threat to the Chinese. China’s dependence on the Mideast is only going to increase, because China’s oil imports will increase.

The increasing anxiety on the part of the Beijing government over its dependence on imported oil is undoubtedly a big part of the reason why China has become extremely aggressive in claiming sovereignty over large regions in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Last year, a confrontation was growing with China on one side, and with the US, Vietnam and other Asian countries on the other side. (See “24-Jul-10 News — US confronts China on South China Sea claims.”)

China is very aggressively claiming that the entire South China Sea region, including the Paracel and Spratly Islands and some 200 other islands, is China’s sovereign terrority, and that they have the right to prohibit foreign ships from entering that region.

The islands themselves may be of little value, but the region is suspected of being rich in oil and gas. Thus, they’re claimed in whole or in part by China, Taiwan, Brunei, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Now that confrontation is growing once again. (read more)