U.S.-Chinese Cooperation in the Middle East Should Be Deepened

U.S.-Chinese Cooperation in the Middle East Should Be Deepened

China isn't comfortable. The country's spectacular growth over the last two decades has made it ever more thirsty for energy, but policymakers are not sure they can secure their energy supply into the future. Rather than gain confidence as the United States has stumbled in the Middle East, many Chinese take U.S. problems in the region as a sign of Chinese vulnerability as well. Some in the United States feared China would soon stand out as a rival to U.S. influence, but in recent months, the Chinese government has shown an interest in being helpful. That cooperation needs to be deepened.

China was self-sufficient in oil until 1993, and its oil imports have been growing ever since. China now imports about 3 million barrels of oil per day, and that number is growing about 500,000 barrels per day every year. While some Chinese experts talk about conservation, alternative fuels and so on, anyone driving on China's impressive highway system -- and sitting for hours in Chinese traffic -- knows that China has embraced the internal combustion engine with a vengeance. Oil is a transportation fuel, and China has abandoned the bicycle and gotten on board the automobile.

About 55 percent of China's oil now comes from the Middle East. This is not so much by design or by choice, but by availability. Sixty percent of the world's proven oil reserves are located in the Persian Gulf, which is far closer to China than deposits in West Africa, the Gulf of Mexico, or the North Sea.

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