The Chinese Resource Quest: The Primary Push

The Motley Fool's energy bureau chief, Joel South, spoke with Michael Levi about his new book, coauthored with Elizabeth Economy, By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World. As the David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for the energy and environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, Levi is no stranger to the impact that countries and their decisions have on the rest of the world. In fact, Levi also writes a blog for the CFR, Energy, Security, and Climate, where he discusses the relationship between energy, the world, and its inhabitants. In By All Means Necessary, Levi analyzes the impacts and effects China's resource hunt has on the world and international affairs, specifically looking at the synthesis of economics, security, and politics.

In the first part of this ten-part interview, Joel South asks Michael Levi about why he and Elizabeth Economy decided to produce the book today. Levi notes that, while By All Means started before his last book, three primary reasons pushed the two authors to finish the book today.

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Joel South: First off, I just wanted to get your thoughts on, why take on this project at this time? Your last book was The Power Surge, looking at a lot of the energy production and generation in the United States.

What was so exciting about China that you really wanted to tackle this right now?

Michael Levi: My coauthor and I actually started working on the book about China before I started working on the one about American energy. I think there were three big reasons to do it.

The first is that China's quest for resources has, by many accounts, had a host of important consequences for the world, from impact on the global economy, to international security, to the environment. When people are claiming such big impacts, it's important to figure out what's true and what's not, in order to understand the world.

The second is that, as China rises, we're all trying to puzzle through what the broad consequences will be. China's quest for resources is one of the leading edges of its rise.

What distinguishes it from a lot of the other aspects is that there's already a multi-decade track record that you can go back and study and asses, rather than just coming up with theories about how you think the future will unfold. The resource quest provides a fantastic opportunity to grapple with the way that China's rise will affect the world, and be affected by the world.

The third reason for doing it is to get a window into how international affairs develop when economics and security and politics all play big roles. During the Cold War, we were used to thinking of the conflict with the Soviet Union as a security conflict, the relationship with Europe and Japan as an economic relationship, but the two didn't really meet -- and, increasingly, the two are difficult to separate.

China's resource quest is an important place where economics and security and international politics meet, so it provides a great opportunity to get better at trying to understand what happens at that intersection.

South: Fantastic. I think we'll cover a couple of those topics in a little more detail.


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