Michal Meidan

Research Associate

Dr Michal Meidan leads analysis of Asian energy policies and geopolitics at Energy Aspects, with a particular focus on China. Before joining Energy Aspects in January 2016, she headed China Matters, an independent research consultancy providing analysis on the politics of energy in China. Prior to that, Michal held senior analytical roles at Eurasia Group in New York and London, and at Asia Centre-Sciences Po, Paris. She has authored numerous academic articles and edited the book Shaping China’s Energy Security: The Inside Perspective. Michal also regularly provides comments for a wide variety of media outlets and is featured as a speaker at industry conferences.

Michal holds a PhD in Political Science and East Asian studies from Sciences Po, Paris. She is an associate fellow at Chatham House and at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. She is fluent in Mandarin and French.

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                    [post_content] => China’s leaders have long been concerned with the strategic vulnerabilities associated with rising oil imports. In their efforts to hedge against these, Chinese policy banks have handed out loans that are repaid with oil. By 2015, repayment for these loans generated 1.4-1.6 mb/d of crude and fuel oil deliveries from Venezuela, Russia, Brazil, and Ecuador to Chinese state owned traders. At the same time, China’s national oil companies (NOCs) have been actively investing globally in upstream projects, and were producing around 1.7 mb/d of oil in 2015. The companies now have upstream assets in all four corners of the world, but their largest investments are still in Africa (Angola and Sudan) and Latin America (Brazil, Venezuela), as well as in Iraq and Kazakhstan. These attempts to diversify import sources have only marginally altered China’s crude oil supply flows, but they have capped dependence on Middle Eastern grades at under 50% of the country’s foreign supplies. At the same time, outbound investments helped increase the share of African crude flowing to China in the early 2000s, only for that share to be dented by Russian and Latin American crudes since 2010, as these countries are now repaying loans with crude. But the collapse in global oil prices since 2014 has placed considerable strain on producing countries’ finances, leading to declines in production, and turning China’s loans and equity investments—that only five years ago seemed like the perfect answer to the country’s energy security woes—into a potential financial liability. But after investing so heavily, Beijing has few options but to maintain support for these countries in a bid to sustain oil production, at least enough to ensure loan repayment and equity output.
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                    [post_content] => China’s 13th Five Year Plan (13FYP) outlines the country’s economic transformation for the coming five years and beyond. As the main blueprint for China’s ‘rebalancing’, it will impact economic growth and energy demand patterns. China’s economic growth is slowing, and the economy is now clearly shifting from an export oriented growth path to a more consumer-driven development model. The 13FYP, by laying particular emphasis on innovation, urbanisation and environmental protection, will accelerate the shift in end product demand from middle distillates to light ends. Efforts to curb industrial overcapacity will further weigh on diesel demand, even though plans for regional interconnectivity will prevent it from falling sharply, while the push to develop alternative energy vehicles will slow gasoline demand growth rates. Finally, the government’s efforts to open the domestic oil industry to private participants is testament to a change in its thinking about oil supply security, and of a greater willingness to allow Chinese companies to become active participants in global oil supply chains and price-making mechanisms. Reforms of the Chinese national oil companies (NOCs) are unlikely to lead to massive privatisations, but will force them to be more financially disciplined. Over the next couple of years, this will lead to cuts in upstream Capex and more cautious outbound investments.
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                    [post_content] => China’s oil sector has been dominated by three large state-owned oil companies in charge of developing the country’s domestic reserves, building and operating pipelines, managing China’s increasingly sophisticated downstream, and filling its strategic petroleum reserves (SPR). Over the years, as China’s demand has outstripped production, they have also become major investors in the global upstream and established a presence in global refining and oil trading. They now rank among the top ten global oil companies. Yet despite China’s growing international reach, its oil sector remains heavily dominated by the Chinese state. From a majority stake in the oil companies, through price setting and diplomatic support for outbound investments, the government maintains significant influence over commercial decisions. At the same time, the technical knowhow and market expertise of the National Oil Companies (NOCs) offer them an important role in policy-making. This relationship is poorly understood, but it is now set to evolve further, alongside government efforts to gradually liberalize the energy sector and reform its state owned giants.

This paper provides a historic overview of the development of the Chinese oil industry, focusing on the relations between the government and the oil companies before assessing how the reform agenda outlined by President Xi Jinping and the liberalization of the oil industry is impacting government–industry relations, as well as China’s global energy footprint.
                    [post_title] => The structure of China's oil industry: Past trends and future prospects
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                    [post_content] => Over the past decade, China has become a key driver of global oil demand growth. As China’s GDP growth increased at double-digit rates, oil demand growth increased by an average 0.5 mb/d between 2003 and 2012. Over the same period, China accounted for two-thirds of global oil demand growth. Thus, any changes in China’s energy profile and oil consumption habits can send shock waves through the global oil markets. In 2014, Chinese oil demand increased by 0.27 mb/d (2.7 per cent), broadly on par with 2013’s growth and the slowest pace of expansion in the past two decades. The question is whether 2014 was a blip, or the beginning of a deeper change. In this report, it is argued that 2014 is a harbinger of things to come. As the government moves to rebalance the economy and implements an aggressive environmental agenda, oil consumption in China will become more efficient, leading to slower demand growth rates. Thus, any outsized expectations of Chinese oil demand growth are likely to be disappointed in 2015, and weigh on global crude prices. It is also argued that the structural shift in the Chinese economy heralds not only slower demand growth, but also a change in product demand patterns and the structure of the refining industry, with important implications for global trade flows of crude oil and related products.
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Latest Publications by Michal Meidan

Latest Tweets from @OxfordEnergy

  • OIES study quoted: Politicization of EC rules on OPAL threatens undermining credibility of EU regulatory framework https://t.co/oFDSvn9Oxq

    January 24th

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    January 23rd

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