Here comes the sun: solar panels in Zhejiang Province, China, December 2014.

In 1997, in need of increasing oil and gas imports to fuel its accelerating economy, China launched a new energy policy. Intent on replicating Washington’s close relationships with large oil-producing countries, its diplomats toured oil-state capitals, offering investment and arms in exchange for guaranteed supplies. Of particular interest were governments that had been ostracized by Western powers—an opening, Beijing believed, that would allow it to level the energy playing field with the United States and have the added benefit of fueling conflicts that would distract the U.S. military just as it was trying to refocus on Asia.

Yet many of China’s forays turned out badly. New partners defaulted on loans and failed to deliver the promised oil. The practice of investing in dangerous places where others would not put the lives of Chinese workers at risk. At home, several leaders of large energy corporations have been

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  • AMY MYERS JAFFE is David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.
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