Will this be the century of Chinese oil-fuelled military interventionism?

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL February 3, 2015
A Chinese power plant in Shenyang in the northeast province of Liaoning

A Chinese power plant in Shenyang in the northeast province of Liaoning

A fascinating bit of research shows that we were right all along to suspect the very basest motives for western military intervention in oil-rich countries.

As Vincenzo Bove and Petros Sekeris say in their Washington Post piece, they’ve pretty much managed to establish that about two-thirds of interventions in countries racked by civil war between 1945 and 1999 were prompted by the need for oil not philanthropy.

That was then. What of this century?

They’re pessimistic, predicting “more of these interventions in future” mainly on account of the “instability in oil-producing regions and the likely increase in the global demand for oil”.

Not everyone will agree there will be an increase in global demand for oil but Mr Bove and Mr Sekeris address that issue by acknowledging how different the world is in 2015.

Shale gas has meant that the US – energy-independent now – may probably walk away from most interventions. It simply won’t need it.

But China may be forced to go down that route, they say. “Continued growth in China means the country will need energy imports more than ever. We’ll see some big changes in the specific states with the greatest incentives to intervene. We may see in coming years the first Chinese military assistance influenced by oil security,” they write.

They say that the results of that will be stronger economic ties between China and the country in which it intervenes because historically that’s what happened after US troop deployment and military aid. “Research we carried out with Leandro Elia, published in the Review of International Economics, found strong empirical evidence that U.S. troop deployment and military aid provokes an expansion in bilateral trade flows,” they write.

In turn, would that mean creeping Chinese dominance of the new world order? And that China would become as hated by 2199 as the US in 1999?