China's future energy security dependent on de-Americanized strategy
Published: Dec 01, 2021 10:53 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Soaring energy prices have led to serious inflation in the US, which shows, once again, that the US' economic model is still under the traditional framework based on fossil energy. The energy transformation will experience a complicated and long process. 

The US is the world's biggest economy, whose global strategy must take into consideration of energy stability. From another perspective, this is an important factor that will influence relations between the US and other major economies as well as other oil-producing countries. 

While US oil diplomacy is far from obsolete, the Middle East is not distancing itself from Washington either, which has determined that energy is an important area of competition between China and the US. 

The US needs cooperation with China, the goal of which, however, is avoiding another US economic crisis. That's the reason why Washington wished China to join the oil reserve release. There have been three major energy-related crises in the US-led Western economies, all of which were triggered by large fluctuations in petroleum prices. 

The current US strategy to contain China's economic development is also certainly to be manifested in energy-related issues, including the layout, trade and pricing of China's global oil and gas extraction, as the US will focus on maintaining the hegemony of its petrodollar.

In the energy sector, the most critical competition between China and the US lies in the transformation of the future development model. Whoever has a quicker pace will be in a more proactive position. 

Rome was not built in a day. The current fossil energy systems of both countries cannot be replaced on a large scale and people's consumption patterns have not yet fundamentally changed. The energy transformation in both China and the US is a complicated and long process. 

Significant fossil energy is still required to fully implement Biden's $1 trillion infrastructure bill, while China's manufacturing sector also relies on fossil energy to maintain its production scale. 

The search for and occupation of energy sources worldwide has been an important characteristic of powerful nations throughout human history. Major powers will become heavily dependent on external sources of energy once domestic energy production is unable to meet the expanding demands of industrialization. Both the UK and the US have followed this path, from which they have not been capable of fully escaping till today. They achieved their own energy security by means of aggression, plunder and war. 

A remarkable feature of modern Western life today is convenient and disposable consumerism reliant upon cars and fossil fuels. There is a frightening fact behind this comfortable life: An average American with a life expectancy of 80 years consumes 1,000 trees and 262.4 tons of oil in his or her lifetime. 

Clearly, the path of the US and the UK is not an option for China. The Chinese people certainly have the right to live a decent and modern life just like Americans and Europeans. The problem is: A modern Chinese lifestyle must be less energy-dependent and less energy-consuming. It's impossible for China to repeat the path of the West. 

China has come to a critical stage where economic growth can be secured by minimizing energy costs. The core of China's future energy security lies in the innovation and application of clean energy technologies, instead of geopolitics or energy reserves. 

This is a path to "de-Americanization," whereby China's economic development would no longer be stuck to the West on energy issues. The whole world will benefit if China succeeds in finding a carbon-neutrality path to modernity. The battle between the two development models will then end with China's win. 

The author is a senior editor with People's Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn. Follow him on Twitter @dinggangchina