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  • China and the Energy Equation in Asia: The Determinants of Policy Choice
  • Alfred Tat-Kei Ho (bio)
Jean A. Garrison . China and the Energy Equation in Asia: The Determinants of Policy Choice. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2009. 185 pp. Hardcover $59.95, ISBN 978-1-935040-05-0.

The book covers an increasingly important topic — China's energy policy and its implications for Asia and the United States. Jean Garrison treats the subject with a balanced and pragmatic perspective.

Many studies have been published to look at different countries' energy policies from a climate change or environmental policy perspective. Garrison takes a different approach and looks at China's energy policy and its implications from the perspectives of foreign policy and bureaucratic politics. Thus, the policy is framed as a security and geopolitical concern — how China tries to safeguard a stable and sufficient supply of energy resources from different countries when the dominant sources of energy, such as oil, coal, and natural gas, are being depleted each day and are controlled by a few countries and regions. This situation naturally creates cause for international conflicts and scrambling for resources. However, by looking at China's internal dynamics and its relationships with its neighboring states and with the United States, Jean Garrison clearly abandons the China threat theory and asserts a pragmatic tone:

This study recognizes the geopolitical challenges that states face but also incorporates a perspective of shared vulnerabilities and possible shared interests that can promote cooperation. Such a definition of energy security evaluates a country's access to other energy sources such as natural gas, coal, and renewable energy (each with different geopolitical and social calculations), as well as the linked sustainable development, environmental, and climate questions.

(p. 16)

Chapter 1 contextualizes China's energy policy by analyzing demand trends from China, the rest of Asia, the United States, and other countries. This context sets the stage for a more in-depth examination of regional politics and "energy games" in Central Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia (chapters 3-5 of the book). In these regions, China is often viewed by policymakers as a trading partner, a collaborator, and a potential threat (at times simultaneously). The author explains the strategic importance of each of these regions to China's energy security concerns; the key historical events in the recent decade, such as international agreements and business deals between these countries and China; and the sources of interest conflicts and potential rivalry among them. Moreover, the author analyzes the domestic side of regional energy policies by highlighting the key roles played by China's energy conglomerates, such as China National Petroleum Corporation, PetroChina, and China National Offshore Oil Corporation. Overall, these chapters provide a broad and informative review of the core issues and geopolitical concerns behind China's engagement in these regions, which is motivated by energy security issues. [End Page 118]

Besides looking at the international relations and foreign policy context of China's energy policy, the author devotes a chapter (chapter 2) to the domestic and bureaucratic politics that helps shape China's foreign relationships and energy policies. To the author, politics is an important missing piece the understanding of China's energy policy. She suggests,

Within foreign policy analysis, the bureaucratic politics perspective argues that multiple interests can be at play, and multiple stakeholders often weigh in on a country's foreign policy decisions. The circumstances illustrate a situation where different definitions of the "national interest" can evolve depending on who is involved in the policymaking process. . . . From this point of view, digging deeper into China's energy interests and policymaking processes becomes the missing piece of the puzzle to address. Because energy crosses security, development, and environmental policy lines, among others, it can be influenced by multiple needs and interests.

(p. 14)

The approach taken in the book to study China's administrative apparatus related to energy policy is similar to the framework of "fragmented authoritarianism" developed by Kenneth Lieberthal and David Lampton. In chapter 2 and other places in the book, the author discusses the roles of multiple ministries, departments, and state-owned enterprises, and the gaming dynamics between the central and...


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pp. 118-121
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