China's international quest for oil security
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China's flourishing economy depends upon access to and greater use of energy resources, especially oil. Consequently, energy security has become of paramount importance to the Chinese government. China, however, perceives a reliance on international oil markets as dangerous and also considers itself vulnerable to the United States, which could conceivably restrict oil imports to China in a time of conflict. In order to enhance China's energy security, Chinese oil companies have sought to obtain oil resources throughout the world, and Beijing has cultivated closer relations with various oil-producing nations. China's heightened demand for oil and its efforts to secure access to oil resources are worrisome to the United States. Fears largely stem from the idea that increased consumption by both the United States and China will inevitably lead to fiercer competition between the two nations and result in a zero-sum game in which a gain for one country comes at the expense of the other country. Anxiety in the United States also is based upon the notion that, as China exerts greater influence around the world through its economic expansion and as it establishes closer bonds with oil-producing nations, China will undermine American interests and foreign policy objectives. Not all concerns regarding China are inflated, but many of them are. Indeed, China's rise will pose certain challenges to American influence and supremacy in some regions, and China's relationships with states that the United States would like to isolate are troublesome. It is important, however, for the United States to be selective in its criticisms of China. Unsubstantiated apprehension will lead to counter-productive policies with respect to China, which, in turn, will alienate China and render other attempts to support American interests fruitless. China's acquisitions of oil resources do not inherently contravene American energy security interests. Thus, the United States should not fret about China's pursuit of oil. The United States should continually reaffirm its professed faith in free markets, including their ability to provide energy security, and in that way allay Chinese concerns about its own vulnerability. If the United States can set aside its uneasiness about China's quest for oil, it can more effectively address Chinese actions that directly and negatively affect American interests and also recognize that opportunities for mutual gain and cooperation abound.