Australia releases a big policy guidance paper on defence every few years. The latest, released last week, contains lots of interesting observations about the geopolitics of the region. It’s worth a read for people outside the region who want a taste of what’s happening. But one point made in passing is of interest to those handicapping the China-US power relations in years to come.
Resource insecurity is likely to grow in coming decades. Asia is expected to become 90 per cent dependent on imported oil by 2050, mostly from the Middle East. Once major exporters of oil and gas, ASEAN countries are now collectively net oil importers and within three decades may also become net importers of gas. Japan and the Republic of Korea have limited domestic supplies, rendering them vulnerable to major energy shocks. These changes are countered to some extent by the United States’ rapid change from being a net importer to a net energy exporter.
Also, worth bearing in mind, South Korea and Japan have almost none of the energy they need. China has about half. The US is on track to have more than it needs. Couple this will advances in technology and industry (these aren’t a done-deal by any means, but they’re heading that way), and while the US economy may be smaller, it will be more efficeint, productive, profitable and a magnet for the world’s talent because of its culture of the rule of law.
Anyway, more on this White Paper later.