China imports about 40 percent of its crude oil, with more than half coming from the Middle East. But growing concern about instability in the region, a fact underscored by the US led war in Iraq, once a centerpiece of China's oil aims, has prompted Beijing to seek sources elsewhere.
"China needs oil, and China is working everywhere" said Shen Dingli, an international relations expert at Fudan University in Shanghai. "We have been too dependent on Middle East oil, and we want to diminish that dependence to have energy security."
As Chinese companies have gone global in search of energy, some have been criticized for planting the flag at any cost, paying exorbitant prices for dubious stakes. But analysts said the price for this deal is in line with what state-controlled oil companies in China and India have paid to secure oil reserves around the world.
"If you're talking to one of the international oil companies, they view that as an overpayment," said Rahim. "But for the Chinese companies, because they've been tasked by the government to go out and get as much oil as they can, then the $2 billion isn't an overpayment in their eyes."
In its quest for energy, China has shown a willingness to do business with regimes shunned as pariahs by much of the rest of the world for human rights abuses. Beijing once signed an energy deal with Iran at a time when the United States and Europe were debating whether and how to sanction the country for pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
The Nigeria deal should be easier than the torturous process triggered when it tried to buy Unocal last summer. At a time of mounting trade tensions between the United States and China, critics in Congress branded the venture a threat to U.S. national security.