Tom BettsFollow

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Recent 'alarmist' reports in Australian newspapers have suggested that the 21st century, and indeed the next decade, may see a return to intense competition over resources, especially energy resources. Based on the rapid growth of East Asian economies, it has been suggested that China in particular may need to become a net importer of such resources on a huge scale, a trend followed to a lesser decree by other developing nations in Asia. Although extrapolated rather directly from current trends, this viewpoint fits in with a range of disputes and/or agreements over resources on a worldwide basis. Chinese and Southeast Asian claims over the Spratlys, Australian and Indonesian agreement, disputed by Portugal at the International Court, on usage of in the Timor Gap, the Gulf War itself driven in part by claims over access to Kuwait's oil, and recent conflicting claims by Russia and Azerbaijan over oil in the Caspian Sea are a few examples of the way resource issues have re-emerged as a major factor in international relations. The following article is a timely analysis of the way energy resources,and oil in particular, have impacted on the behaviour of powerful nations throughout the twentieth century.