by Jacqueline N. Deal, FPRI Senior Fellow
Reviewed by Francis P. Sempa, Contributing Editor
Since the end of the Cold War, strategists have been predicting a future global struggle between the United States and the People's Republic of China (PRC). In a recent address at a conference in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Jacqueline N. Deal identified oil and energy security as a key component of this geopolitical competition.
Deal briefly reviewed the role that access to oil and energy supplies played in the major conflicts of the twentieth century--the First World War, the Second World War, and the Cold War. She noted that China currently imports more than fifty percent of its oil, and that number is expected to increase to seventy-five percent in the future.
China, she said, has three options to alter the geopolitical landscape in its favor: (1) trust the free market; (2) build a blue-water navy to compete globally with the United States for command of the seas; and (3) use an "indirect approach" by developing a network of well-armed client states along key oil routes.
Deal agrees with Naval War College scholars Toshi Yoshihara and James Holmes that China's defense intellectuals are fusing the geopolitical ideas of Mackinder and Mahan with the writings of Sun-Tzu in formulating grand strategy. She believes that China will likely choose the third optionthe indirect approachto improve its geopolitical position vis-a-vis the United States.
Deal's address is a welcome reminder that access to energy supplies and command of the seas maintain their importance in twenty-first century geopolitics.