Asia's fierce competition for commodities

Competition for natural resources among Asian nations continues to intensify, bringing the world's most resource-poor continent to a dangerous crossroads of dependence, geopolitical tension and environmental degradation, writes Professor Brahma Chellaney of the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research in an article for Project Syndicate.

As Australians, Canadians and Russians well know, severe natural resource constraints in Asia have forced economies outward to secure access to mineral ores, timber and fossil fuels, leading a "commodities supercycle" that has lasted some 15 years.

With regard to hydrocarbons, Asian nations without access to pipeline supply routes like Japan, South Korea and India must continue to pay a high price and will be stuck importing oil from an increasingly volatile Middle East.

According to Chellaney, resource competition also explains, in part, "the current tensions between China and Japan over their conflicting territorial claims to islands in the East China Sea, which occupy an area of only seven square kilometers, but are surrounded by rich hydrocarbon reserves…disputes in the South China Sea involving China and five of its neighbors, and in southern Asia, are equally resource-driven."

Negative consequences for the environment in Asia have also become increasingly apparent as Asian cities dominate the list of the world's most polluted cities.

"Population growth, urbanization, and industrialization are exacerbating resource-related stresses, with some cities experiencing severe water shortages, and degrading the environment,' writes Chellaney. The Tibetan Plateau, for example, "which contains the world’s third-largest store of ice, is warming at almost twice the average global rate."

Read Professor Chellaney's article in full here.


 Sources: Project Syndicate, JP Morgan Natural Resources