While China's leadership transition captured the world's attention, it was away from that spotlight that the Chinese state revealed a crucial bit of information that says a lot about what motivates its foreign policy.
Wang Yilin, head of Cnooc, China’s state-controlled energy group said today that the South China Sea region could have as much as 17 billion tonnes of oil and 498 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Leslie Hook of the Financial Times reports that the oil and gas that could be extracted would double China's reserves, and may prove enough natural gas to fulfill China's needs for more than a century.
This might explain why China has taken sovereignty in the region so seriously. China is locked in a territorial dispute with Vietnam and the Philippines over control of areas of the sea, harassing survey ships working for PetroVietnam in Vietnamese-claimed waters and blocking efforts by the Philippine Navy to combat illegal fishing by Chinese ships in Philippine-claimed waters.
Energy concerns may also go some way to explaining the spat with Japan over control of islands in the East China Sea.
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