China’s Search for Energy Security: Domestic Sources and International Implications

China's Search for Energy Security

Author(s): Suisheng Zhao

ISBN:          978-0-415-62793-1

Publisher: Routledge

Year:          2012

Price:         £85.00

Reviewed by Kai Chen, post-doctoral research fellow, Zhejiang University, China

Due to the rapid economic growth and the increasing rise in demand for energy resources, China has been facing serious energy insecurity. This raises several questions calling for immediate attention: What are China’s perceptions of the current energy insecurity? How would China take countermeasures to the corresponding challenges? What are the implications of China’s resolving energy insecurity issues around the world? In China’s Search for Energy Security Domestic Sources and International Implications, a collection of selected articles published in the Journal of Contemporary China, the frontier scholars analyze the phenomenon of ‘while there are policies from above, there are all kinds of counter-measures from below’ (p. 20) in many aspects of China’s energy security, and provide thought-provoking explanations to these critical questions

The volume is divided into three parts. In Part I (Chapter 1 & 2), from Chinese scholars and university students’ perspectives, the contributors explore China’s interpretation of energy insecurity and the relevant strategic options. As Cheng, Zweig and Ye note, China has been taking countermeasures to energy insecurity, especially in promoting energy diplomacy and raising efficiency of energy consumption. Moreover, as there is “little support for an aggressive foreign policy to solve China’s pending energy hunger” (p. 45), technology transfer and China’s overseas investment in energy resources would be essential to resolve China’s energy insecurity.

In Part II, the four chapters analyze China’s energy insecurity issues from domestic perspectives. Chapter 3 explains China’s policy-making process in energy industry, and the recent policy shifts in China. As Meidan, Speed and Ma highlight, the energy policy shifts did not get an expected result, because the regions of China have their own vested interests , and choose different policy paths. In Chapter 4, Kong investigates the essential factors determining China’s energy policy making, and deduces that China’s energy policy making has become “increasingly similar to that of the United States” (p. 72). Chapter 5, written by Speed and Ma, demonstrates that energy production in China does have negative social-economic influences on farmers, unemployed workers and migrant workers, especially the marginalization of these vulnerable groups. In Chapter 6, Brown and Xu confirm the conclusions in Chapter 5 to a large extent. This chapter examines the case of the Liuku Dam in the Nu River area, and indicates that the local resettlement does not accord with the central government’s intensions to sustainable development, which has affected public opinion of China’s local energy project. From Chapter 7 to Chapter 10, Part III interprets China’s pursuing energy security in the global scope and the relevant strategic implications. As Zhao concludes in Chapter 7, China’s strategy of guaranteeing energy security could be characterized as “state-led search for energy security” (p. 143). On the one hand, this strategy is successful in establishing partnerships with some Indo-China peninsula countries and Central Asian countries. On the other hand, it also carries foreshadowing of disputes over energy resources with some neighboring countries in the future. In Chapter 8, Pollack considers that a similar dilemma also occurs in Sino-American relations, especially the mutual misunderstanding between both parties. Though both countries’ interests are “interlocking rather than independent” (p. 174), there would be no shortcut for their achieving a consensus on shared interests. As Pollack suggests there are three available options of Sino-American collaboration: “sustainable high-level policy dialogue”, “collaborative research and development on energy policy” and implications to both parties’ defense planning (pp. 176-178). Next, Holslag assesses China’s energy diplomacy in Darfur, which has two weak points, namely first, ignorance other important actors in Darfur and second, lack of alternative options in case of escalating armed conflicts in Darfur. As Burgos and Ear note in Chapter 10, there is a similar case in Angola, a country supplying one-quarter of China’s oil imports (p. 195). A “long-term, synergistic, and mutually beneficial partnership” (p. 211) between Angola and China will be in line with the best strategic interests of both countries. This solution is also applicable to other cases of Chinese-foreign relations in the face of energy insecurity.  China’s Search for Energy Security Domestic Sources and International Implications greatly inspires readers, and warns that China’s aggressively pursuing energy security would evoke adversarial reactions in the foreseeable future. In short, this timely volume will be an insightful reading for academics, students and scholars, who are interested in China’s energy security and the corresponding consequences.

Suggested citation:

Kai Chen (2013). Review of “China’s Search for Energy Security: Domestic Sources and International Implications” edited by Suisheng Zhao, East Asian Integration Studies, Vol. 6, no. 10, Internet file: