Dealing with the Malacca Dilemma: China's Effort to Protect its Energy Supply

You Ji is Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of New South Wales, Australia
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  • May 2007

    China's dependence on ship-borne energy resources forms the bedrock of its energy security. Critical to this is the issue of sea lane of communications (SLOCs) safety. SLOC safety is at once a non-conventional security challenge and a military one, which may trigger maritime conflicts. The difficulty in dealing with this challenge is that it is integral to geopolitics and hence subject to complicated major power relations. Geo-strategic politics will increasingly determine Beijing's SLOC policy of political cooperation and military hedging. While the former is the dominant, the latter is being pursued in a gradual manner. For China, energy transportaion is crucially linked to its national security. Without enough oil, China will have to think twice before launching any large-scale military action. This underlines the efforts of the People's Liberation Army to back up a policy of cooperation with credible naval strength. The factor of SLOCs has been added to China's maritime strategy and provided a new guidance for navy transformation.