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Energy Security Of The PRC In The Context Of Central Asia At The Present Stage

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Energy Security Of The PRC In The Context Of Central Asia At The Present Stage

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Being the fastest growing economy with the largest real sector in the world, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) risks to face the most serious energy crisis in its modern history, while Central Asia, which is a key region for Beijing’s energy sector, tends to a geopolitical crisis.

Over the past 5 years, the Chinese government has become seriously concerned about energy consumption for several reasons.

Firstly, the public turned out to be aware of the impact of the rapid growth of the national economy in the late nineties and early noughties on the environment, which worsened the living conditions of the population.

Secondly, China is actively innovating within the transition from an industrial to a post-industrial economy, with an emphasis on the digital and financial sectors, which affects the structure of energy consumption.

The policy in this direction was formalized within the framework of the 13th Five-Year Energy Development Plan, according to which China is determined to change the structure of energy generation towards cleaner sources and comply with the Paris Agreement.

Energy Security Of The PRC In The Context Of Central Asia At The Present Stage

An example of China’s environmental policy

However, today this strategy poses more threats to China than it seems. According to the China’s General Administration of Customs, in the period of January to August 2021, the cost of Russian oil purchasing increased by 30.4 percent, while gas and coal futures rose even more. China has imposed a ban on energy imports from Australia, a key supplier to the regional market. The region lacks a developed logistics system, there are few pipelines that provide stable contracts, and tanker shipments are less profitable and riskier, taking int o account the case of the container ship Ever Given in the Suez Canal in late March this year.

Today, the PRC economy is not in the best position to face the prospect of a power shortage. The Washington Post reports that Evergrande, one of the largest real estate developers in China, is nearing default, being unable to repay $300 billion of debt. This default threatens to bring down the entire Chinese economy.

China was able to predict the possible risks linked to the current situation in the global energy market, and for this reason, it pays special attention to the Central Asian region. For China, this territory is primarily an opportunity to diversify energy risks through the supply of hydrocarbons: Turkmenistan can be mentioned as the prominent supplier of pipeline gas to China (15.95 million tons worth $4.2 billion in January-August), and Kazakhstan ranks third (3.17 million tons worth $723 million). For this reason, Central Asia is now one of the most important directions of China’s investment policy, including logistics and extractive industries among the priority sectors. Great hopes are laid on the region in terms of developing the “Belt and Road” concept. Thanks to its exceptional role in the inflow of investment in the former southern Soviet republics, China has gained enormous influence there, but is this enough for the diversification?

Energy Security Of The PRC In The Context Of Central Asia At The Present Stage

Map of the newly built and planned pipelines and railways in Central Asia

The problem in this case relates to the extremely low standards of living and economic development of the Central Asian countries, excluding Kazakhstan, which is confirmed by massive labor migration to Russia. The same factor, on the one hand, ensures the loyalty of local elites to their creditor, Beijing, but on the other hand, it determines the “explosive” regional instability. The poor population, who see no prospects for themselves, is fertile ground for the spread of radical Islamism, for the work of recruiters of terrorist groups, along with the general deterioration of the security situation. The situation is not improved by Central Asian drug trafficking and smuggling through the countries of the region.

We should not rule out the role of the United States in a possible escalation of tensions in the future, the United States may indirectly carry out provocations in Afghanistan or in neighboring territories to bring the conflict outside the country. The target in this case will be Chinese energy infrastructure projects in Central Asia to undermine its position in the confrontation with the Western coalition.

The establishment of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan seems extremely alarming against such a background. It should be recognized that the turmoil in Afghanistan is not a single country event, it seems to be a powerful signal for all inhabitants of Central Asia. Even if the situation is now localized as much as possible, the destructive processes in the region have already begun. By the way, according to the latest data, even this condition is highly questionable: threats are heard from Kabul towards the Tajik government because of its support for the Panjsher resistance.

Any destabilization is a threat to the Chinese investments, which are making attempts to avoid the upcoming energy crisis, and there is also the relatively shaky Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region on Chinese territory itself. Therefore, of course, China got involved in resolving the situation in Central Asia, even holding talks with representatives of the banned group. In the future, considering some new projects of economic cooperation, China will continue its strategy of “paying off” local elites, seeking to achieve political stability in the region. So far, the elites themselves, including the new regime in Kabul, have expressed their interest, but whether this will be enough to stop destabilization is a complicated question.

Summing up, there is a need to develop an independent security strategy for China in Central Asia, where a significant role is likely to be assigned to the dialogue with Russia as the guarantor of security in the Eurasian space. In the nearest future, China will be consistently dealing  with this issue, because it has no alternatives to energy carriers from Central Asia and does not expect them, while the painful consequences of the energy transition, the soaring prices of hydrocarbons and the consolidation of the Western coalition against China in the Indo-Pacific region, which is clearly expressed in the recent formation of the AUKUS block and the QUAD agreement, are seen on the horizon.

We should also expect China’s infrastructure policy to intensify. China will again follow the strategy of risk minimization and build communications for the transit of energy resources through the Eurasian space, new pipelines may be built, and Beijing’s diplomatic efforts will be thrown to ensure the safety of these very projects.


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Expansion of energy ties with Iran would certainly help to alleviate any potential future “crisis” in the Chinese energy markets.

This is obviously well known to China and Iran. They should be fast tracking overland energy transit corridors to the benefit of both nations.

The map provided shows Iranian access from the Caspian Sea and on through Kazakhstan.


Note, all pipelines running from the Caspian straight across the central Asian mongolistan straight to China. And then same same from the Russian Siberia/ Murmansk to China.


A sharp reduction in CO2 would be detrimental to a greener world. CO2 makes plants grow more abundantly. Already there is more forest than 50 years ago, a good deal more. CO2 doesn’t heat the earth. It’s only 0,04% of the atmosphere and follows warmer climate (can be seen in any long time graph). Since most CO2 is bound in the oceans water, warmer climate and hence evaporation brings more CO2 into the atmosphere. The last little ice age ended about 1850: so indeed we are in a climate optimum right now. But it will get colder again.

Last edited 26 days ago by Dave
Bobby Twoshoes

I wouldn’t be so glib, the solutions offered are bullshit but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. Sure CO2 is being focused on so they can extort more money from us through carbon trading fraud but the science they are perverting is legit. As you note however; more CO2 means more plant life so if we didn’t concrete over our arable land and contaminate the rest with heavy metals and industrial chemicals then nature would easily offset our carbon production while providing food and biodiversity abundance in doing so, which ultimately is the real “threat” the parasite class are trying to avoid. If we got practised enough at appropriate environmental management we could even potentially use the warming effect of atmospheric carbon to stabilise the climate and extend this interglacial period indefinitely.

jens holm

Thre is not more forest than 50 years ago at all. I mut be in Your garden or balcony:(

Call me AL

Look up “greenhouse gasses including water vapour”; strange how we have had a concerted effort by the powers that be to cut down rainforests, forests and woods hey ?. The World is a stage.

Jean de Peyrelongue

This paper is too negative and pessimistic about China. It is true that China has to digest its expansion and succes and I guess that PCR’s actions towards Big-Tech, relationship between children and electroni games and now toward energy are driven to bring bach Chineses to realities where trees are not growing uo to the sky.


Carbon intensity? Well, you’ll want some CO2, otherwise your forests won’t grow.

Arch Bungle

Interesting to note that China is experiencing power shortages due to increased global demand for it’s products.

It not due to a fragile economy, infrastructure, governance system.

This is the kind of problem a country should strive to have.

Any other country experiencing power outages of a similar nature would be experiencing a form of degradation and decline.

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