'Red Storm Ahead': Securitisation of Energy in US-China Relations

Nyman, J. 2014. “‘Red Storm Ahead’: Securitisation of Energy in US-China Relations.” Millennium - Journal of International Studies 43 (1): 43–65. doi:10.1177/0305829814525495.

The paper is one the rare and much welcome applications of the securitization theory to energy security. It discusses securitization in relation to the attempt of Chinese National Oil Company (CNOC) to acquire a US oil company Unocal in 2005. The paper analyzes, in great and fascinating detail, how actors in the US Congress and other organizations securitized this move, which China tried to present as purely commercial. The article is an interesting counterpart to the paper on securitizing oil in China, that considers securitization from the other, Chinese, side.

POLET commentary

The paper views energy security as purely politically constructed and is rooted in political science/international relations literature, particular in 'critical security studies' starting in the 2000s though energy security scholarship started in the 1960s as we explain in another article. This leaves some interesting questions beyond the scope of the analysis, for example did UNOCAL really hold 'dual-use' technologies and if so which ones?

The paper calls for 'desecuritization' of oil using an example of de-securitized relations between US and China in the fields of shale gas and renewables. This argument is problematic because shale gas and renewables are fundamentally different from oil. Different energy technologies have different political economies and thus political analogies can only be extended from one sector to another if energy systems and institutional analysis show that they are sufficiently similar.