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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Rethinking securitization : water scarcity and energy security in China O'Boyle, Peter Cornelius


This thesis explores the seriousness of the impact of water resource scarcity on China’s energy security. It starts from the premise that water resources are necessary for coal-fired energy production, which is itself crucial for maintaining China’s required power generation, and shows how increasing coal-energy demands and diminishing water resources have combined to threaten China’s energy security. To assess the seriousness of the threat it employs the securitization analysis frameworks proposed by the Copenhagen School and Mely Caballero-Anthony and Ralf Emmers, arguing that water resources were securitized in relation to energy in China’s ‘Three Red Lines’ Number One Document in 2011. Subsequently it analyses whether and to what degree securitization resulted in policy action and policy success with respect to two important topic areas: (i) geographical distribution of water resources vis-a-vis coal-fired energy production; and, (ii) efficiency of water resource use. It argues that consideration of such factors makes for a better understanding of the empirical situation and finds that securitization resulted in significant and degrees of policy action in both topic areas, and moderate and insignificant degrees of policy success in geographical distribution of water resources vis-a-vis coal-fired energy production and efficiency of water resource use respectively. In light of this, it argues that China is very concerned about the impact of water resource scarcity on its energy security. Moreover, in order to explain the discrepancies between securitization and degrees of policy success, it introduces new additions to the aforementioned securitization frameworks - potential constraints, structural feasibility issues, timeframes, and uncertainty - which the paper argues helps explain such discrepancies as well as improve understanding of the empirical landscape. As a result of this, it argues that these additions to the theoretical frameworks should be used in future studies of securitization.

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