If the United States shale revolution provides energy independence from the Middle East, China will come out a geopolitical loser, according to a study by the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND).
The International Energy Agency (IEA) suggests that shale oil could make America the world's top petroleum producer by 2020. This would likely prompt the US to scale back its complex, costly involvement with the Middle East.
As the British Empire receded from the Greater Middle East in the first half of the 20th Century, the US began to increase its involvement in the region. Now it may soon be China's turn to do the same.
An energy independent America spells trouble for the Chinese as they would have to absorb higher costs to secure supply routes out of the Middle East.
Yet all this may be turned on its head as an immense new shale oil discovery in Australia could decrease China's need for Middle Eastern petroleum.
At least for now one of the heaviest superpower burdens – securing energy from high-risk areas – seems to be shifting eastward.