"Cui Bono", often translated as "who benefits?", is a favourite investigative principal of conspiracy theorists. It allows them to spin all kinds of fanciful nonsense whereby any accidental or perceived benefit resulting from tragedy can be used to finger otherwise unlikely culprits. For example, 9/11 conspiracy theorists often point to the fact that there are large gas reserves in Central Asia, particularly in Turkmenistan to argue that ultimately 9/11 was staged by the US in order to invade Afghanistan and build a pipeline through that country and down to the Pakistani coast where it will no doubt be run off with by the Yankee Imperialist Aggressors.
The pipeline has been the central character of what Ronald Weick calls a shaggy-dog story with no punchline explaining every action of the US's involvement in Central Asia. Pointing to UNOCAL's attempts to build a trans-Afghan pipeline in the nineties, some conspiracy theorists believe that the Afghan war was purely an attempt to resurrect this project. That the ensuing chaos justified troop presence there or that the US was deliberately provoking conflict. It didn't seem to matter that conflict was almost certainly the last thing prospective investors wanted to see there. I have even seen arguments that the continued US presence is deliberately stirring up conflict in order to prevent pipelines being built from Central Asia to China. Of course the problem with that little theory is that one look at the map above shows there is no need to build a trans-Afghan pipeline to move gas from Turkmenistan (or any of the other Central Asian republics) to China.
Also, the real world of geo-politics seems to work a little differently to the rules of Risk. Just because the Yankees have their black(water) armies sitting on Afghanistan doesn't mean China can't have its red armies parked there too. Or if not its red armies, it doesn't mean that it can't operate its own copper mine in Afghanistan.
However, China does seem to know at least one thing about the strategy of Risk. Let your opponents squabble with each other and build up slowly and quietly.
From 30th January's Economist:
[F]or most of the 18 years since the Soviet Union’s break-up, China has taken a back seat in the fierce competition between Russia and America for influence in this resource-rich region. In 2009, with the energy needs of its burgeoning economy continually growing, it woke up to new opportunities in its western backyard...
...In June, for example, China agreed to lend Turkmenistan $4 billion to develop its largest gasfield, South Yolotan, close to the Afghan border. This was part of a 30-year deal that should eventually bring China 40 billion cubic metres of gas each year. The same month Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin’s successor, announced a loan of $10 billion loan to the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO), a security forum grouping China, Russia and four Central Asian countries, to shore up members faltering in the global downturn. In November China’s largest oil-and-gas provider, jointly with Kazakhstan’s oil-and-gas firm, bought MangistauMunaiGas, a big oil producer in Kazakhstan. In exchange, China had lent the country $10 billion earlier last year.
China needs to be careful with its plans, however. If the Truthers get wind of who the true beneficiaries of the situation in Afghanistan are, China may have to face the inept wrath of the conspiraloons who may just ask the question... Hu benefits?