When, fresh out of graduate school, I caught on with a major over-water drilling contractor, we seldom strayed from the Gulf of Mexico. And beyond that, the operators teamed up far less frequently than they do today, preferring to conduct their business by their lonesomes.

Now, however, the operating companies match up around the globe. And whereas state-owned companies seldom teamed up with their publicly owned counterparts in my time, all that has changed. Today, consortiums are frequently mixes and matches of companies of different sorts of ownership and from different parts of the world.

Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal carried an article about a progressively cozier relationship between France's Total (NYSE:TOT) and China National Petroleum Corp., or CNPC. The two companies apparently plan to make a joint bid next year involving Venezuela -- which just a couple of years ago booted majors such as ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), Statoil (NYSE:STO), and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) from operating positions in the Orinoco River basin.

Now, President Hugo Chavez is looking for help in boosting his country's waning heavy oil production. Beyond Total and CNPC, companies such as Chevron (NYSE:CVX) and BP (NYSE:BP) are expected to be involved in the bidding. Several blocks are likely to be put up in the process, with the cost per block likely to run roughly $10 billion to $20 billion.

And then there are discussions being held for Total to help CNPC develop a portion of Iran's huge South Pars gas field. In addition, in partnership with Malaysia's state-owned company, the companies won the rights for work on the Halfaya oil field during Iraq's round of bidding this month.

Finally, the two companies have been looking into developing China's largest gas field for a while now. The field, called the South Sulige, is technically challenging, although Total CEO Christophe de Margerie believes that the companies will proceed with the difficult and expensive project.

What does this mean for investors? I have long thought that Total is one of the more solid companies operating around the world. With CNPC its almost constant companion, I believe that the French company is well-positioned to benefit from China's deep pockets and unquenchable thirst for oil and gas.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named. He does welcome your questions. The Fool has a disclosure policy.