This article analyzes the evolution of the East Central Eurasian energy triangle China-Kazakhstan-Russia. It treats in depth the behavior of Chinese national oil companies (nocs) regarding foreign direct investment (fdi) in Kazakhstan and Russia. The first section sets out the framework of geo-economics in a complexity-science perspective, in particular the key analytical categories of the ‘emergent coherence’ approach, and it defines a ‘hydrocarbon energy complex’ (hec). The second section analyzes the formation of the East Central Eurasian hec by examining Chinese energy investment in Kazakhstan and Russia since 1991, using the ‘emergent coherence’ framework as explained. The third section examines the geo-economics of Sino-Russian competition for energy resources in Central Asia, specifically in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, over the same timeframe. The fourth section presents conclusions about changes over time in the behavior of Chinese nocs regarding investment in Kazakhstan and Russia and cooperation with them in the energy sector. The fifth section, the conclusion, summarizes the findings, gives them geopolitical perspective, and concludes on the criteria determining the delimitation of the distinct chronological periods emerging from application of the ‘emergent coherence’ framework.
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