China Gains New Friends in Its Quest for Energy
From The New York Times
By Jane Perlez and Bree Feng
On the northern reaches of the Caspian Sea, not far from this old Soviet town known for its oil and sturgeon, lies a vast new oil find, the biggest outside the Middle East. China was rebuffed when it asked for a stake 10 years ago.
But when the pumps finally started this month, the China National Petroleum Corporation had won a share in the project, known as Kashagan, and President Xi Jinping was in the region recently to celebrate, another indication that China’s influence has eclipsed even Russia’s across the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
China’s urgent quest for energy is the main driver of its strategic interest in a region whose proximity allows huge reserves of oil and gas to be moved overland through Chinese-built pipelines rather than by ship through American-dominated sea lanes from the Middle East.
In the long term, analysts say, China’s economic ties with Central Asia could liberate it from any concern that the United States could use its superior naval power to enforce a sea blockade, should relations ever deteriorate to the point of confrontation.
Here in Kazakhstan, the most prosperous of the former Soviet republics, Mr. Xi formalized the $5 billion deal for Kashagan, which for the first time places China in a consortium alongside the big international players: Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and the Italian company ENI.
In Turkmenistan, Mr. Xi opened a new onshore gas field, the second biggest in the world, one that the Western energy companies had been vying for, but that will now send gas through a Chinese-built, 1,100-mile pipeline that stretches all the way to Shanghai.
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