Hedging against energy insecurity: a comparison between China and the EU

  • Efstratios Pourzitakis

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The research compares the energy security approaches and strategies of China and the EU since the early 2000's. It examines the nexus between strategies and approaches of the two actors and it seeks to highlight the importance of domestic issues such as energy security governance and domestic politics. In addition, it sheds light to the notion of hedging which has become recently a buzzword among political scientists. Finally, it takes a critical position towards the mainstream dichotomy between strategic and market-based approaches to energy security. Despite their structural differences, China and the EU share similarities regarding their conceptualization of energy security. Interestingly, both sides have based their perceptions on perceived and contested energy security risks. Hence, in the mid-2000's, the two actors securitized energy due to external factors such as the Russia-Ukraine gas crisis and the so-called "Malacca Strait dilemma". Domestic factors however served as a transmission belt and they determined the process of how these external challenges shaped their energy security perceptions and eventually their strategies. During the last years of the examined period, Beijing and Brussels have adopted more comprehensive and sophisticated approach. Their declared adherence to market-based principles reflects among others their interest in self-identifying as liberal actors. The latter has been a global trend among states. Furthermore, it is concluded that their energy security strategies have distinct differences as well as certain similarities. For many years, issues such as the "Malacca Dilemma" and the European dependence on Russian gas have played an important role to the energy security strategies of China and the EU. Again, the two actors have been incorporating strategic and market-based policies in their energy security strategies that aim at their domestic markets as well as abroad. In order to analyse the energy security perceptions of the two actors, the research assumed that China and the EU have been adopting a hedging strategy. While their behaviour has the characteristics of hedging, a basic difference between the two actors is that for China hedging is a strategic choice while for the EU hedging is a combination of policies adopted by different actors. As a result, while it can be accepted that China has been implementing a hedging strategy the EU has been merely pursuing a hedging behavior. The distinction between hedging strategy and hedging behavior stands as one of the theoretical contributions of this research. Finally, the research chooses the Caspian Sea region as a case-study in order to examine the energy security strategies of China and the EU. Both actors have been seeking access to the Caspian energy resources in order to hedge against their energy insecurities. Their approaches however are fundamentally different as China has established a strong foothold in the region adopting mainly mercantilistic tactics while the EU has been facing important hardships as a result of domestic setbacks that limit the effectiveness of its resource diplomacy as well as due to political incompatibility with the Caspian states. Using the Regional Security Complex Theory as a conceptual starting point, the research approaches the Caspian Sea region as an energy security complex where China and the EU have been also integrated. The research analyses the energy security strategies of China and the EU within the Caspian complex applying the theoretical framework of neoclassical realism. This theoretical novelty can be evaluated as successful and as a result, the research has established an alternative theoretical approach to regional security complexes.

Date of Award25 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJean-Pierre CABESTAN (Supervisor)

User-Defined Keywords

  • China
  • Energy policy
  • Energy security
  • European Union countries

Cite this