Energy Demands Increasingly Shape China’s Behavior in the South China Sea

An offshore drilling rig at a dock before it departs for the South China Sea, Yantai, eastern China's Shandong province, April 30, 2015 (Imaginechina photo via AP).
An offshore drilling rig at a dock before it departs for the South China Sea, Yantai, eastern China's Shandong province, April 30, 2015 (Imaginechina photo via AP).

With China’s aggressive posture in the South China Sea undermining the popular narrative of its peaceful rise, many experts correctly point to the dual tides of nationalism and militarization as drivers of hostile behavior. But leaning too heavily on these explanations conceals a third factor behind Beijing’s maritime claims: a burgeoning demand for energy. Already the world’s largest energy consumer, China will only need more in the coming years to maintain sustained urbanization and industrialization. As more people move into cities and China’s economic output rapidly expands, its energy consumption will increase by nearly 50 percent through 2035, accounting for […]

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