There's a battle going on over the future of US policy and strategy. For now the focus is on terrorism and Afghanistan. But when that winds down, all eyes will be on China and its rush for resources.
President Obama sees the risk. He talked with China's President, Hu Jintao, about co-operating in developing renewable energy. But the pressure to procure resources is greater than the incentives to develop renewables. The US military is divided on the issue. The Army and the Marines see terrorism as the greatest threat, but the Navy believes China's growing resource dependency on Africa and the Middle East explains its naval build-up and that the US must expand its own navy.
China is not intending to be a threat. It needs a vast amount of resources to maintain its economic growth – it will need twice as much oil by 2030 as it does now. Most of it is imported and it will need to come from the same places that the US gets its oil from. That will be seen as an economic threat – and a military one in some eyes.
The US and China will be the major players. In the past few weeks, military exercises have been conducted under the rubric of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, Peace Mission 2010. This is an attempt by China to exert its strategic power in central Asia and the China Sea region.
China and Japan have been in dispute over a couple of islands in the past two weeks. The islands are of no use, but the area contains a lot of offshore oil and gas. In the western hemisphere, China is relying largely on market forces and is not following up with its military. China is very aware that Brazil is America's backyard.
In Africa it's another story. China's quest to control resources is often followed up with military ties. This poses a challenge to the US, which has responded by stepping up its own military presence. Africom (the US African Command) was established in 2007, and though its head does not say so, people in Washington say it is a response to China.
What is different today is that the scale of demand for resources is greater than ever, thanks to the spread of industrialisation to much larger parts of the world. Supply is not growing fast enough to meet the demands.
Michael Klare is professor of peace and world security studies and the author of 'Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet'