U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have peddled democracy when she breezed through Angola in August, but there were few doubts she was thinking oil. And though she denied any interest in what China was up to in the African nation, she couldn't possibly have ignored it.

Beijing and Washington's rivalry for African oil — particularly the coveted resources of Angola and Nigeria — has never been stronger, as America tries to bolster its dwindling reserves, while China seeks resources to fuel its rapid industrial expansion. Both Angola and Nigeria are among America's main oil suppliers. They are also chief sources of crude for China, and with huge Chinese investment now pouring in, Beijing seems to be seeking a lion's share.

With China and other Asian nations stalking Africa's oil fields, Clinton's tour — which also took in Nigeria — could be viewed partly as a gesture to ward off these predators, protecting Western interests by championing weak African nations as they face an Asian carve up.

But, according to a surprising new study of Asia's quest for African oil by UK-based think tank Chatham House, such fears are unfounded. Angola and Nigeria are keeping China, India and South Korea at arm's length, while remaining squarely in the driving seat, Chatham House found.

"Despite the perceived wisdom that Asian national oil companies were the exploiters of poor African states, our research showed it was the other way around: that strong African host governments really determined the “pace of investment,” report co-author Alex Vines told GlobalPost...

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