Something we are also seeing globally right now is a re-alignment of geopolitical alliances and particularly the emergence of China as a balance to the 'only remaining superpower', the US of A. Russia and China are creating much stronger links with recent agreements on oil supply from Russia to China and even joint military exercises. Also China is developing much stronger ties and relationships with the Islamic world (see articles below).
A Chinese/Russian/Islamic alliance is certainly a strong possibility and will surely create a powerful geopolitical bloc capable of standing up to US Imperialism and the general 'Western' developed nation bloc. The giant slumbering Chinese Dragon is awakening...
Some would have it that the US Neo-Conservatives and their 'New American Century' plan for global dominance has as it's ultimate aim the encircling of China with US bases, after it has secured it's oil supplies through bases in the Middle East and elsewhere.
While this site is not primarily concerned with these issues of geopolitics I plan to post the odd article now and then, especially when it relates to Peak Oil and Climate Change. I'm beginning to see a pattern in all this... joining up the dots! and a lot of what we are seeing is driven by Geo-Political motivations and the ongoing survival of powerful militarised nations with long-term plans.
This article by Michael C Ruppert called Globalcorps is a must for anyone interested in Geo-Politics and the impact of Peak Oil on our world : GLOBALCORP
The best sources for Geo-political viewpoints on global events are www.fromthewilderness.com, www.antiwar.com, http://www.infowars.com/ and http://www.threeworldwars.com/
Iraq's archeological sites destroyed under American and British occupation - The Independent, Sept 2007 It is the death of history
2,000-year-old Sumerian cities torn apart and plundered by robbers. The very walls of the mighty Ur of the Chaldees cracking under the strain of massive troop movements, the privatisation of looting as landlords buy up the remaining sites of ancient Mesopotamia to strip them of their artefacts and wealth. The near total destruction of Iraq's historic past – the very cradle of human civilisation – has emerged as one of the most shameful symbols of our disastrous occupation.
Evidence amassed by archaeologists shows that even those Iraqis who trained as archaeological workers in Saddam Hussein's regime are now using their knowledge to join the looters in digging through the ancient cities, destroying thousands of priceless jars, bottles and other artefacts in their search for gold and other treasures.
In the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, armies of looters moved in on the desert cities of southern Iraq and at least 13 Iraqi museums were plundered. Today, almost every archaeological site in southern Iraq is under the control of looters.
In a long and devastating appraisal to be published in December, Lebanese archaeologist Joanne Farchakh says that armies of looters have not spared "one metre of these Sumerian capitals that have been buried under the sand for thousands of years.
"They systematically destroyed the remains of this civilisation in their tireless search for sellable artefacts: ancient cities, covering an estimated surface area of 20 square kilometres, which – if properly excavated – could have provided extensive new information concerning the development of the human race.
"Humankind is losing its past for a cuneiform tablet or a sculpture or piece of jewellery that the dealer buys and pays for in cash in a country devastated by war. Humankind is losing its history for the pleasure of private collectors living safely in their luxurious houses and ordering specific objects for their collection."
Ms Farchakh, who helped with the original investigation into stolen treasures from the Baghdad Archaeological Museum in the immediate aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, says Iraq may soon end up with no history.
"There are 10,000 archaeological sites in the country. In the Nassariyah area alone, there are about 840 Sumerian sites; they have all been systematically looted. Even when Alexander the Great destroyed a city, he would always build another. But now the robbers are destroying everything because they are going down to bedrock. What's new is that the looters are becoming more and more organised with, apparently, lots of money.
"Quite apart from this, military operations are damaging these sites forever. There's been a US base in Ur for five years and the walls are cracking because of the weight of military vehicles. It's like putting an archaeological site under a continuous earthquake."
Of all the ancient cities of present-day Iraq, Ur is regarded as the most important in the history of man-kind. Mentioned in the Old Testament – and believed by many to be the home of the Prophet Abraham – it also features in the works of Arab historians and geographers where its name is Qamirnah, The City of the Moon.
Founded in about 4,000 BC, its Sumerian people established the principles of irrigation, developed agriculture and metal-working. Fifteen hundred years later – in what has become known as "the age of the deluge" – Ur produced some of the first examples of writing, seal inscriptions and construction. In neighbouring Larsa, baked clay bricks were used as money orders – the world's first cheques – the depth of finger indentations in the clay marking the amount of money to be transferred. The royal tombs of Ur contained jewellery, daggers, gold, azurite cylindrical seals and sometimes the remains of slaves.
US officers have repeatedly said a large American base built at Babylon was to protect the site but Iraqi archaeologist Zainab Bah-rani, a professor of art history and archaeology at Columbia University, says this "beggars belief". In an analysis of the city, she says: "The damage done to Babylon is both extensive and irreparable, and even if US forces had wanted to protect it, placing guards round the site would have been far more sensible than bulldozing it and setting up the largest coalition military headquarters in the region."
Air strikes in 2003 left historical monuments undamaged, but Professor Bahrani, says: "The occupation has resulted in a tremendous destruction of history well beyond the museums and libraries looted and destroyed at the fall of Baghdad. At least seven historical sites have been used in this way by US and coalition forces since April 2003, one of them being the historical heart of Samarra, where the Askari shrine built by Nasr al Din Shah was bombed in 2006."
The use of heritage sites as military bases is a breach of the Hague Convention and Protocol of 1954 (chapter 1, article 5) which covers periods of occupation; although the US did not ratify the Convention, Italy, Poland, Australia and Holland, all of whom sent forces to Iraq, are contracting parties.
Ms Farchakh notes that as religious parties gain influence in all the Iraqi pro-vinces, archaeological sites are also falling under their control. She tells of Abdulamir Hamdani, the director of antiquities for Di Qar province in the south who desperately – but vainly – tried to prevent the destruction of the buried cities during the occupation. Dr Hamdani himself wrote that he can do little to prevent "the disaster we are all witnessing and observing".
In 2006, he says: "We recruited 200 police officers because we were trying to stop the looting by patrolling the sites as often as possible. Our equipment was not enough for this mission because we only had eight cars, some guns and other weapons and a few radio transmitters for the entire province where 800 archaeological sites have been inventoried.
"Of course, this is not enough but we were trying to establish some order until money restrictions within the government meant that we could no longer pay for the fuel to patrol the sites. So we ended up in our offices trying to fight the looting, but that was also before the religious parties took over southern Iraq."
Last year, Dr Hamdani's antiquities department received notice from the local authorities, approving the creation of mud-brick factories in areas surrounding Sumerian archaeological sites. But it quickly became apparent that the factory owners intended to buy the land from the Iraqi government because it covered several Sumerian capitals and other archaeological sites. The new landlord would "dig" the archaeological site, dissolve the "old mud brick" to form the new one for the market and sell the unearthed finds to antiquity traders.
Dr Hamdani bravely refused to sign the dossier. Ms Farchakh says: "His rejection had rapid consequences. The religious parties controlling Nassariyah sent the police to see him with orders to jail him on corruption charges. He was imprisoned for three months, awaiting trial. The State Board of Antiquities and Heritage defended him during his trial, as did his powerful tribe. He was released and regained his position. The mud-brick factories are 'frozen projects', but reports have surfaced of a similar strategy being employed in other cities and in nearby archaeological sites such as the Aqarakouf Ziggarat near Baghdad. For how long can Iraqi archaeologists maintain order? This is a question only Iraqi politicians affiliated to the different religious parties can answer, since they approve these projects."
Police efforts to break the power of the looters, now with a well-organised support structure helped by tribal leaders, have proved lethal. In 2005, the Iraqi customs arrested – with the help of Western troops – several antiquities dealers in the town of Al Fajr, near Nasseriyah. They seized hundreds of artefacts and decided to take them to the museum in Baghdad. It was a fatal mistake.
The convoy was stopped a few miles from Baghdad, eight of the customs agents were murdered, and their bodies burnt and left to rot in the desert. The artefacts disappeared. "It was a clear message from the antiquities dealers to the world," Ms Farchakh says.
The legions of antiquities looters work within a smooth mass-smuggling organisation. Trucks, cars, planes and boats take Iraq's historical plunder to Europe, the US, to the United Arab Emirates and to Japan. The archaeologists say an ever-growing number of internet websites offer Mesopotamian artefacts, objects anywhere up to 7,000 years old.
The farmers of southern Iraq are now professional looters, knowing how to outline the walls of buried buildings and able to break directly into rooms and tombs. The archaeologists' report says: "They have been trained in how to rob the world of its past and they have been making significant profit from it. They know the value of each object and it is difficult to see why they would stop looting."
After the 1991 Gulf War, archaeologists hired the previous looters as workers and promised them government salaries. This system worked as long as the archaeologists remained on the sites, but it was one of the main reasons for the later destruction; people now knew how to excavate and what they could find.
Ms Farchakh adds: "The longer Iraq finds itself in a state of war, the more the cradle of civilisation is threatened. It may not even last for our grandchildren to learn from."
A land with fields of ancient pottery
By Joanne Farchakh, archaeologist
Iraq's rural societies are very different to our own. Their concept of ancient civilisations and heritage does not match the standards set by our own scholars. History is limited to the stories and glories of your direct ancestors and your tribe. So for them, the "cradle of civilisation" is nothing more than desert land with "fields" of pottery that they have the right to take advantage of because, after all, they are the lords of the land and, as a result, the owners of its possessions. In the same way, if they had been able, these people would not have hesitated to take control of the oil fields, because this is "their land". Because life in the desert is hard and because they have been "forgotten" by all the governments, their "revenge" for this reality is to monitor, and take, every single money-making opportunity. A cylinder seal, a sculpture or a cuneiform tablet earns $50 (£25) and that's half the monthly salary of an average government employee in Iraq. The looters have been told by the traders that if an object is worth anything at all, it must have an inscription on it. In Iraq, the farmers consider their "looting" activities to be part of a normal working day.
The Independent, "It is the death of history", 17 September 2007.
Wary of the New Silk Road
By William O. Beeman,
Aug 26, 2005
(In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without
profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and
As the United States greets the
Islamic world with increasing fear and hostility, China is
embracing it with an astonishing enthusiasm, and young
Muslim youths are responding in increasing numbers –– in
effect, creating a modern Silk Road
China ’s boom in trade and technology is exerting a powerful pull. Its first-rate universities, tremendous employment possibilities and economic opportunities look increasingly attractive compared to those in the West. The price is right, too.
At a top U.S. university, a foreign student pays $25,000 per year in tuition. At Beijing University, it costs $2,500 or less.
Add to this the fact that security issues in the West have made it increasingly difficult for young Muslims to obtain visas for work or study. Even if they are able to get the documents for New York, Moscow or Paris, they face increasing discrimination from officials and the public.
The city of Urumqi in the Xinjiang autonomous region of Western China reflects the new migration. This ancient city is now a boomtown, with a skyline of tall buildings reminiscent of Chicago from a distance. It had more than $5 billion in trade last year, doubling on an annual basis. It is a magnet for chronically unemployed youth of Central Asia.
Siamak is a 24-year-old Kyrgyz pharmacy worker, translating between Russian, Uighur, Kyrgyz, English and Chinese for the thousands of traders exporting Chinese pharmaceuticals. He is completing an advanced technical degree at the University of Urumqi. “The Chinese are making everything,” he exclaims. “I think this is the best place to be to learn about electronics.” He shrugs off any difficulty with speaking Chinese. “It’s just another language. It took me about 3 months before I could understand the classes. Then it was easy.”
Shahrom, a young Tajik, transports goods to Dushanbe and Afghanistan. Now that the first road ever is open into land-locked Tajkistan, huge amounts of goods are transported during the six months of the year that the route is open. It costs less that $200 to transport a whole truckload from Urumqi to Dushanbe. Shahrom already knew Russian, Tajik and Uzbek, which is close enough to Uighur to make communication easy. After six months, he too, is almost fluent in Mandarin.
“I love it here,” Shahrom says. “Living is cheap, there is lots of work, food is good and I have a girlfriend. What more could I want? At home I could be unemployed or go to Moscow and work a construction job for little money and live in a basement with 16 other guys.”
In Beijing, Muslims from Central Asia and the Middle East are showing up in increasing numbers. Iran has a flourishing trade with China, and there are regular flights between the two nations. Bagher has been in Beijing for more than 10 years. He is an aficionado of Beijing opera, and a successful tea trader. “The Chinese don’t care what I do with my private life,” he says. “They may be hard on their own citizens who protest, but I am free to live as I like.”
Despite ethnic and economic tension between Han Chinese and Uighurs, Islam is widely tolerated, and many Muslims are ethnic Chinese. Islamic supermarkets dot the cityscape north of the Forbidden City in Beijing, and there are as many Arab, Persian and Central Asian customers today as Chinese. Mosques throughout Beijing create a welcoming atmosphere for these new pioneers.
As human ties strengthen, the natural resources of the Middle East and Central Asia will increasingly flow to China, rather than the West. The cross-fertilization of cultures that once made the Silk Road the economic engine that ran the world is about to be reborn, and the United States and its allies are in danger of standing on the sidelines watching the caravan move on.
William O. Beeman is professor of Anthropology, director of Middle East Studies at Brown University and a contributor to Pacific News Service.
Militarisation Of Oil
March 8, 2005
In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without
profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and
Oil prices spiked to record
levels last week, propelled by a rally in petrol prices and
a cold snap in the northern hemisphere, against the
backdrop of a tight balance between supply and demand. Yes,
that's right, basic "supply/demand," not "political
turbulence in the Middle East."
If anything, this simplistic relationship between Middle Eastern political tension and rising/falling crude prices has broken down over the past few weeks. As the FT's Philip Stephens noted, "The Middle East is becoming a different place. The world's sole superpower is unwilling any longer to accept the status quo. That of itself is a powerful agent for change. Images beamed by Arab satellite television, first of the Palestinian and Iraqi elections and now of the public clamour for Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon, are shaking the authoritarian preconceptions of the old order. Behind the scenes, the world-weary cynicism about the prospects of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is giving way, if not to optimism, then at least to glimmers of hope."
It is very telling that the price spike came during a most propitious backdrop: a popular uprising in Beirut, the growing isolation of Syria and small stirrings of change in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Analysts said hawkish comments from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries have contributed to the rally. Ali Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, last week forecast that oil prices would stay between $40 and $50 a barrel for the rest of this year. The acting OPEC secretary general, Adnan Shihab-Eldin, also added fuel to the fire (so to speak) when he said oil prices could rise to $80 in the next two years in the event of a major oil supply disruption, similar to the war in Iraq. (It is also worth noting that crude's strength is no longer simply a weak dollar phenomenon: as market analyst James Turk has noted, oil is now becoming more expensive in terms of both euros and dollars, reflecting the growing breadth of this particular bull market.)
But talk, unlike oil, is cheap. OPEC could no more "talk up" the market than it could talk it down last year. Obscured against the perennial geopolitical conflict that tends to characterise the oil producing regions of the world, or the endless theorising about whether the oil cartel is "cheating" on its quotas, is the fact that exploration success in global oil has been in decline for decades and that the world has been living off of the major fields discovered literally decades ago. Recent exploration has gone in large part toward exploiting more effectively these major fields, but such exploration has not been characterised by huge new discoveries. Announced increases in "reserves" merely reflect changes in reporting requirements as mandated by the SEC, rather than major finds of new sources of oil. Likewise, most advances in technology simply enhance extraction, but have done little to augment existing supply. As a consequence, the rate of depletion of these fields has increased, implying looming supply problems ahead. Add to this the fact that the vast majority of new projects will produce less refinable heavy oil and it is clear that major supply shortfalls loom, cold weather or hot weather.
We have arrived at the summit of "Hubbert's Peak," the oil geologist who in 1956 correctly prophesized that U.S. petroleum production would peak in the early 1970s, then irreversibly decline. In 1974 he likewise predicted that world oil fields would achieve their maximum output in 2000; a figure later revised by some of his acolytes, such as Henry Groppe, Colin J. Campbell, and Matt Simmons, to anywhere between 2006-2010.
If high oil prices are here to stay, it clearly has epochal implications for the global economy. Indeed, even if the recent rise puts paid to the notion that Middle Eastern political risk premiums in and of themselves bear tangential relationship to underlying movements in the oil market, the very lack of new supply will almost invariably lead to an increasing militarization of global energy policy, although perhaps not in the Middle East-centric manner in which this has been occasionally manifested in the past.
For Iraq is hardly the only country where American troops are risking their lives on a daily basis to protect the flow of petroleum. In Colombia, Saudi Arabia, and the Republic of Georgia, U.S. personnel are also spending their days and nights protecting pipelines and refineries, or supervising the local forces assigned to this mission. American sailors are now on oil-protection patrol in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the South China Sea, and along other sea routes that deliver oil to the United States and its allies. In fact, as Michael Klare has noted (Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum), the American military is increasingly being converted into a global oil-protection service:
"Ever since the Soviet Union broke apart in 1992, American oil companies and government officials have sought to gain access to the huge oil and natural gas reserves of the Caspian Sea basin -- especially in Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. Some experts believe that as many as 200 billion barrels of untapped oil lie ready to be discovered in the Caspian area, about seven times the amount left in the United States. But the Caspian itself is landlocked and so the only way to transport its oil to market in the West is by pipelines crossing the Caucasus region -- the area encompassing Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the war-torn Russian republics of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, and North Ossetia.
"American firms are now building a major pipeline through this volatile area. Stretching a perilous 1,000 miles from Baku in Azerbaijan through Tbilisi in Georgia to Ceyhan in Turkey, it is eventually slated to carry one million barrels of oil a day to the West; but will face the constant threat of sabotage by Islamic militants and ethnic separatists along its entire length. The United States has already assumed significant responsibility for its protection, providing millions of dollars in arms and equipment to the Georgian military and deploying military specialists in Tbilisi to train and advise the Georgian troops assigned to protect this vital conduit. This American presence is only likely to expand in 2005 or 2006 when the pipeline begins to transport oil and fighting in the area intensifies.
"Or take embattled Colombia, where U.S. forces are increasingly assuming responsibility for the protection of that country's vulnerable oil pipelines. These vital conduits carry crude petroleum from fields in the interior, where a guerrilla war boils, to ports on the Caribbean coast from which it can be shipped to buyers in the United States and elsewhere. For years, left-wing guerrillas have sabotaged the pipelines -- portraying them as concrete expressions of foreign exploitation and elitist rule in Bogota, the capital -- to deprive the Colombian government of desperately needed income. Seeking to prop up the government and enhance its capacity to fight the guerrillas, Washington is already spending hundreds of millions of dollars to enhance oil-infrastructure security, beginning with the Cano-Limon pipeline, the sole conduit connecting Occidental Petroleum's prolific fields in Arauca province with the Caribbean coast. As part of this effort, U.S. Army Special Forces personnel from Fort Bragg, North Carolina are now helping to train, equip, and guide a new contingent of Colombian forces whose sole mission will be to guard the pipeline and fight the guerrillas along its 480-mile route."
Other countries are responding in kind, notably China. More expensive oil will undercut China's energy-intensive boom. The country is already experiencing sporadic power shortages against a backdrop of growing car ownership and air travel across the country. Energy is becoming vital to strategically important and growing industries such as agriculture, construction, and steel and cement manufacturing. Consequently, pressure is already mounting on Beijing to access energy resources on the world stage. As a result, energy security has become an area of vital importance to China's stability and security. China is stepping up efforts to secure sea lanes and transport routes that are vital for oil shipments and diversifying beyond the volatile Middle East to find energy resources in other regions such as Africa, the Caspian, Russia, the Americas and the East and South China Sea region.
To be sure, China's drive for energy security has nowhere come close to reaching the militarization of America's current energy policy. To the extent that it has engaged in competition, this has so far been limited to the economic sphere through state-owned oil and gas companies such as China Petroleum Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), China National Petroleum Corporation (C.N.P.C.), its subsidiary PetroChina and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (C.N.O.O.C.), all of which are actively seeking to accumulate overseas subsidiaries or offshore exploration rights. Sinopec, for example, has won the right to explore for natural gas in Saudi Arabia's al-Khali Basin and Saudi Arabia has agreed to build a refinery for natural gas in Fujian in exchange for Chinese investment in Saudi Arabia's bauxite and phosphate industry.
Chinese acquisitions are also extending closer to Washington's traditional sphere of influence in the Americas. China and Canada signed a joint statement on energy cooperation, which included accessing Canada's oil sands and uranium resources following Prime Minister Paul Martin's recent trip to the country. Moreover, while attending last November's annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (A.P.E.C.) summit in Chile, Chinese President Hu Jintao announced an energy deal with Brazil worth $10B supplementing a $1.3B deal between Sinopec and Petrobras for a 2000 km natural gas pipeline. China is also acquiring oil assets in Ecuador as well as investing in offshore petroleum projects in Argentina. During Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's visit to Beijing in December and Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong's visit to Venezuela in January 2005, China also committed to develop Venezuela's energy infrastructure by investing $350M in 15 oil fields and $60M in a gas project in Venezuela.
However, as oil prices rise and China imports an increasing amount of its energy needs, the competition is beginning to spill over into the political and military spheres. The burgeoning energy trade with Saudi Arabia, for example, already complements a growing relationship in the military sphere as seen with China selling Saudi Arabia Silkworm missiles during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s,
There are also indications that Beijing's relations with Tokyo are taking on a more militaristic hue, particularly in relation to the issue of Taiwan. Although Taiwan has largely been viewed within the context of the so-called "One China" policy, analyzing the conflict through this narrow prism has obscured other important, energy-related facets underlying Beijing's hawkishness on the issue (and the corresponding response by both Tokyo and Washington). A territorial dispute between China and Japan in the East China Sea, which both sides claim as their Exclusive Economic Zone (E.E.Z.), is being further fueled by reports of vast supplies of oil and gas in the region. The disputed territory includes the Diaoyu or Senkaku islands and the Chunxiao gas field northeast of Taiwan, which according to a 1999 Japanese survey holds 200 billion cubic meters of gas. Japan regards the median line as its border while China claims jurisdiction over the entire continental shelf. In 2003, China began drilling in the area after the Japanese rejected a Chinese proposal to develop the field jointly. Although the Chunxiao gas field is on the Chinese side of the median line, Japan claims that China may be siphoning energy resources on the Japanese side.
The rising military tensions between the two countries manifested itself most recently in the form of a confrontation following the incursion of a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine into Japanese waters off the Okinawa islands on November 10, 2004. The intrusion was followed by a two-day chase across the East China Sea. Although China subsequently apologized, it was not an isolated occurrence: this was soon followed by the intrusion of a Chinese research vessel into Japanese waters near the island of Okinotori, which was believed to have been surveying the seabed for oil and gas drilling purposes. This was, according to a Power and Interest News Report by author Chietigj Bajpaee, the 34th such maritime research exercise by Chinese vessels within Japan's E.E.Z. in 2004, up from eight in 2003, with China not giving prior notification in 21 of the 34 cases.
Tokyo has responded in kind: Japan's most recent Strategic Defense Review named both North Korea and China as causes for security concern as it instigated an overhaul of defense priorities. The review is particularly notable for the inclusion of China as a country that needs "carefully watching" in the wake of the November 2004 submarine incident.
Adding to these tensions is Japan's shift from its post-war pacifist and defensive posture towards a more active military role in the region, as seen with the current deployment of its Self Defense Forces to Iraq. Last December, Prime Minister Koizumi extended by a year the deployment of 550 ground troops in Iraq, the biggest and most controversial dispatch since the Second World War. His government has also continued to push for a revision to the 57-year-old pacifist constitution that would enable more effective participation in such missions as a way of strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance.
The Bush Administration has not remained a disinterested party in this rising dispute. After a temporary post Sept. 11-cessation of references to China as a "strategic competitor", the US has more recently again begun to express disquiet about the thrust of China's military policy, particularly in response to the proposed lifting of the European Union's arms embargo on China. A recent joint statement by the US and Japan last month named Taiwan as an issue of joint security concern for the first time. In response, China has noted that the US spends more on its defense than the next 18 countries combined, but this has not stopped Beijing from pushing to acquire a national fleet of Very Large Crude Carriers, or V.L.C.C.s, that could be employed in the case of supply disruptions brought on by a terrorist attack, the Malacca Straits (through which about 80 per cent of China's oil imports flow) or a U.S.-led blockade during a conflict over Taiwan.
Growing US-Chinese tensions (fuelled in large part by this ongoing competition for global energy resources) also help to explain China's less than enthusiastic support of US aims to discourage North Korea from developing its nuclear weapons program further. Indeed, in regard to the latter, the Chinese foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing, has recently expressed doubt about the quality of American intelligence on North Korea's nuclear program and said the United States would have to talk to North Korea one-on-one to resolve the standoff. Washington has repeatedly sounded the alarm about North Korea's nuclear efforts and has pressed China, North Korea's only significant ally, to be more active in seeking seek a solution. If the US insists on playing the "Taiwan card," Beijing seems equally happy to play the "North Korea card."
Oil, and the corresponding drive for energy security, therefore, is becoming an increasingly common, yet disruptive, thread driving policy in Washington, Beijing and Tokyo. The competition over energy resources is now becoming an additional area of contention over and above existing trade disputes between Washington and Beijing. China's growing presence on the international energy stage could ultimately bring it into confrontation with the world's largest energy consumer, the United States, where a growing number of American soldiers and sailors are being committed to the protection of overseas oil fields, pipeline, refineries, and tanker routes. Given the parlous state of America's national finances, it is clear why Tokyo, with its huge repository of savings, is being brought in effectively to help underwrite this policy (although why the Japanese have gone along so compliantly, other than a longstanding historic rivalry with China, is less clear). With these 3 global behemoths engaged in an increasingly fraught competition over an increasingly scarce resource, it is clear that the global economy will pay a higher price for oil, not only in dollar terms, but also in blood for every additional gallon of oil which we seek to consume. The great game has truly begun.