China's Hunt for Oil in Africa in Perspective

6 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2006

See all articles by ZhongXiang Zhang

ZhongXiang Zhang

Tianjin University - Ma Yinchu School of Economics

Date Written: September 2006


China is concerned about the security of its sea-lanes for imports and desires to diversify its oil supplies from the Middle East in order to sustain economic growth. These concerns have sparked China's interest in trying to ensure oil supplies from as many sources as possible and in reducing its overwhelming reliance on seaborne imports of oil, which, in China's view, is considered less vulnerable to disruption than oil arriving by tankers. In this context, China has turned the eyes on the emerging oil and gas fields in Africa. Through its high-profile oil diplomacy, China has been successful in developing its access to African oil and gas resources. However, China's oil diplomacy in Africa has been roundly criticized in Western capitals. Washington increasingly perceives that Beijing's ties to the so-called rogue states undermine the U.S. goals of isolating or punishing these states that fail to prompt democracy, limit nuclear proliferation or respect human rights.

This paper argues that China's hunt for oil in Africa has been exaggerated by partly-informed commentators, sometimes based on erroneous information, not to mention those that deliberately paint the distorted picture. That said, the paper suggests that, in pursuing its oil diplomacy, Beijing should take into account many factors including Washington concerns, in particular when U.S. concerns also reflect those of a large section of the international community. The paper points out that devoting more resources to build a better future for all and help to eliminate the fear of another Rwanda or Darfur is a positive form that Beijing should take in its engagement with Africa. This way of engagement would be considered more positive by the broad community of states, and helps to enhance China's security of energy supply and at the same time would significantly reduce one source of tension with Washington. Overall, it will greatly benefit Africa as well as China.

Keywords: China, Oil hunt in Africa, Energy polcy

JEL Classification: Q41, Q43, Q48

Suggested Citation

Zhang, ZhongXiang, China's Hunt for Oil in Africa in Perspective (September 2006). Available at SSRN: or

ZhongXiang Zhang (Contact Author)

Tianjin University - Ma Yinchu School of Economics ( email )

92 Weijin Road, Nankai District
Tianjin 300072
+86 22 87370560 (Phone)


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