But the difference is that China does not have an adequate foreign policy or the capabilities to accommodate the unavoidable economic realities. Moreover, some in China fear that increasing U.S. energy independence, particularly its enormous shale output, will make the Middle East is strategically dispensable for the U.S., providing Washington with more flexibility to "disrupt" the region in a way that would indirectly damage Chinese interests. In other words, if Middle Eastern oil no longer matters quite so much to the U.S., then it would have more freedom to do things that would risk disrupting Middle Eastern oil output, such as forcing "regime change" in unfriendly countries.
As simplistic as this may sound, such a view seems to be gaining some traction. One Chinese commentator, pointing out that U.S. oil imports from the Gulf have plummeted to 15 percent and that domestic gas production rose from 20.2 to 22.4 trillion cubic feet in just three years, argued that these developments give Washington more leverage to push around China through, for instance, Iran sanctions. Meanwhile, a researcher at CNOOC, one of China's big three national oil companies, echoed similar sentiments about America's diminishing role in the Arab world:
We understand that the United States' presence and influence in the Middle East is a key factor behind that region's stability, but China is the single greatest purchaser of Middle Eastern oil. The major reason that the United States is seeking energy self-sufficiency is its desire to reduce or even end imports of Middle Eastern oil...
...Nor do we wish to see the United States completely withdraw from the Middle East. We really don't want to see the Americans "transform" the Middle East or allow the region to fall into disorder once they are no longer reliant upon its petroleum. China has but little influence on the Middle East and even less power to control the region, but we need its oil, and we need a stable Middle East.
The discoveries of American shale gas, Canadian oil sand and Brazilian oil beneath salt beds has made the Americas into the "new Middle East" of the 21st century. In the foreseeable future, it is entirely possible for North and South America to become energy self-sufficient. In other words, the Middle East will no longer be an indispensable source of oil to the United States...
Ever suspicious of U.S. motives, this line of reasoning points to an inevitable conclusion that the United States, via its energy independence, is once again using economic weapons to constrain China's behavior. Of course, that's a bit more of a China-centric view of American policy than is probably warranted.
Such a logic also belies a fundamental distrust of the markets. There is little acknowledgment that decades of technological development and market evolution eventually culminated in successful and scalable U.S. shale production. Instead, some Chinese opinion leaders seem to ascribe a more sinister grand U.S. plot to achieve energy independence so that it can continue to assert dominance over China. For a certain set of Chinese elites, the market is to be dictated and manipulated to achieve political outcomes; it is not something to submit to.