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China Inspired by Russian Energy Integration?

Here’s an interesting one from Daniel Altman at IHT:

China already has a tough time generating enough energy to supply its rapidly growing economy. But with a successful bid from China to operate the power grid in the Philippines, I wonder whether it will be long before China pursues the same vertical integration strategy for energy that Russia has sought: complete domination of the generation, distribution and sale of energy to the public.

Consider China’s enormous industrial capacity. Is it crazy to suggest that it might someday become an energy exporter, even to island nations like the Philippines? Would it not then reap extraordinary benefits from also operating the grids in such countries? As I have written before, Gazprom of Russia is trying to extend its tendrils through Europe at all levels of the energy market, for the same reason.This transaction could, of course, be a fairly innocuous extension of Chinese commercial influence through the region it views as its backyard. Perhaps it is no different from, say, a Chinese insurance company expanding into the Philippines. Yet even if China lacks the oil and gas reserves that Russia has, it could still become a retail energy powerhouse by using nuclear, hydroelectric, geothermic and other sources of electricity. The officials in Beijing have shown a measure of farsightedness before. Is this another example?

Former journalist and author Steve LeVine doesn’t agree:

I personally don’t think the parallels hold. Russia has fewer than 150 million people to satisfy, and manufactures almost nothing, making the export of energy and electricity not just wholly possible, but wise given its economies of scale. With its 1.3 billion people and a booming economy, however, China will have some time before it can service the entire country, and think of exporting.