China’s statistics regarding energy related necessities are full of meaning and symbolism. Surprisingly, in 2009 Saudi Arabia exported more oil towards China than the US, changing the conventional flow of its market. Consequently, these shifts also determine worldwide political strategies.
After twenty-two years of petrol partnership with the United States, Saudi Arabia now exports less than one million barrels to its regular customer. On the other hand, Saudi relations with China are progressively increasing. The yearly oil import for the first time surpassed the one-million-barrel threshold, almost doubling their previous value.
The United States is gradually turning away from petrol as an energy source and embracing biofuels and renewable forms instead both because of Obama’s environmental policies as well the general response triggered by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil-producing countries, therefore, fear a regression from their regular customers and look to China as their new largest consumer. Industrial collaboration is thus also emerging between these countries and China.
The crown-owned Saudi Aramco company, for example, recently finished building an oil refinery in Fujian Province, which is programmed to receive 200,000 oil barrels a day. A second project is taking place in Qingdao. The shifts in these countries’ economic policies prove to be more of a necessity than a choice.
China’s demand is expected to double in the next two years, reaching a growth of 90,000 barrels a day. This prediction seems accurate, as China’s oil consumption has doubled over the past decade simultaneously to its domestic economic growth. It is, thus, more important to understand countries’ economic tendencies as opposed to their figures.
The United States still holds higher per-capital oil consumption, ten times that of China’s. But the gap is narrowing rapidly as China’s imports increase. In 2009 alone, China sourced more than half of its necessities globally, in comparison to a mere 6 percent in 1993. China is thus forced to combine its economic interests – and allies – with its political ones. Its primary suppliers are Saudi Arabia and Angola.
It is no surprise how Riyad holds eighth place as a Chinese supplier around the world (with an export value worth twice as much as Italy’s). China then has to keep a stable relationship towards an area as sensitive as the Middle East in order to feed its immediate national interest.
Such has been the case with Teheran, where China has promoted an attitude of negotiation as opposed to a punitive one. But the relations with Iran, currently China’s third largest supplier, are creating tension between Beijing and the White House parallel to those between Sudan and Chavez’s Venezuela.
The petrol industry is redesigning international relations and foreign policies, and those previously mentioned are just a glimpse of the repercussions they will unfold.