Emerging Markets, Commodities, Energy

China Eclipses U.S. To Become World’s Largest Importer Of Crude Oil

China OilChina has overtaken the U.S. as the world’s largest importer of crude oil for the first time, according to a report from the Financial Times (FT) on Sunday.

Highlighting a seismic shift in global energy flows over the past decade, China has eclipsed the U.S. in April and has became the top global crude importer.

According to the FT, Chinese customs statistics for April showed that crude oil purchases from overseas had hit a new high of 7.4 million barrels per day, accounting for around 1 in every 13 barrels consumed worldwide and and topping U.S. imports of 7.2 million barrels per day.

Oil chart

Chart courtesy of FT

The report said that although China’s imports are not expected to consistently surpass those of the U.S. until the second half of this year, the data highlights how the U.S. shale revolution has reduced the nation’s reliance on foreign oil — and how China’s demand continues to grow, even as its economy slows.

China’s emergence as the top importer of crude oil could influence how global crude oil deals are priced and may affect the relations of Beijing and Washington with oil producers in the Middle East, the FT said.

Reuters notes that although China could drop back to second place in the coming months, it is clearly headed towards overtaking the U.S. as the world’s top crude importer on a permanent basis.

China is already the world’s largest energy consumer, with oil by far the largest traded energy market. Overtaking the U.S. means that China is the top user of nearly all commodities, including coal, iron ore and most metals, with far-reaching implications for markets which continue to shift from West to East, Reuters said.

“Being the world’s biggest crude importer should give China more buying power. China’s engagement in the Middle East will continue to change, and it will no longer be the minority player,” Philip Andrews-Speed, head of energy security research at the National University of Singapore, told Reuters.

“China becomes not only more important to Middle Eastern states, but the Middle East becomes progressively more important to China relative to other countries that are importing less oil,” he added.


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