China on Global Energy Governance - Gökberk Bilgin


As being the rising power of the world economy and the main competitor of the United States, China prepares itself for its new role in global politics. The industrialization process, combined with cheap labor, offers a significant amount of current account surplus, and the Chinese government uses this source on improving its impact on the world. Up to the 1990s, the Chinse economy was self-sufficient on oil and was not importing it in a significant amount. However, after the shifts in the industry, Chinese cities grow, and demand for vehicles, roads, and other industrial goods increased rapidly. This created an enormous amount of oil to the region, and in years, China becomes the top oil importer country. Today, like the United States, they are implementing policies to reduce their vulnerability to petroleum.


In international politics, China desire to build its institutions that would compete for the existing global energy institutions. They are doing this through the organizations like the BRICS, Shangai Cooperation Organization, and in Central Asia through the Silk Road Initiative. Gaye Christoffersen explains the reason for this policy in her article named The Role of China in Global Energy Governance. She states that to cooperate with the existing institutions means doing important reforms in the domestic energy sector for China. The existence of ungoverned places within China creates rapid increases on the oil demand, and smuggling activities cause the Chinese government to lose money. The lack of transparency on sharing the available data also problematic for building an alternative institutional system for energy cooperation. It directly creates diplomatic parties between the actors. According to the article, despite China’s desires and perceives it as a strategically important policy, the lack of governance at the domestic level prevents its impact from reaching desired levels in the international system diplomatically.


Although their success is low on building an alternative institution for the global energy markets, the Chinese government is quite successful in building economic partnerships with the countries that have energy resources. Starting from the early 2000s, the presence of China in the Middle East increases. Since the Iranians offer the type of oil that China requires for their refinery operations, there is a growing partnership between these two countries. As Ponížilová suggests, the decreasing American investments to Iran replaced by the Chinese money. A similar investment also made to Venezuela as well. The Chinese government offered a $50 billion loan to Venezuela in return for its oil and made an agreement.


Overall, China also becomes an important player in global energy politics. Even though they lack playing the game as Americans do on international organization level, they increase their influence by focusing on bilateral economic relations with the countries that have something to offer them.

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