Despite China's years-long efforts to ramp up local production and diversify its acquisition, its dependency on the Middle East for crude oil remains intact.
Beijing: China's reliance on Middle East oil increases despite its efforts to get to an "ecological civilization" that relies less on fossil fuels and more on renewable energy. As the world's largest oil importer seeks to become greener and more self-reliant, one might expect a shift in its attention and capital. The reality, however, is not that simple, according to Asia Times.
Since China became a net importer of oil in 1993, the Middle East has emerged as an increasingly important source of this critical commodity. By the time China surpassed the US as the largest importer of crude oil in 2017, almost half its supply originated from the conflict-ridden Middle-East region.
Despite China's years-long efforts to ramp up local production and diversify its acquisition, its dependency on the Middle East for crude oil remains intact. In 2020, China imported crude oil that totalled roughly USD 176 billion. Almost half (47 per cent) of these official imports came from Middle Eastern countries, according to Asia Times.
Further, Saudi Arabia emerged as China's largest crude oil supplier and was still maintaining its leading position as of October 2021. The USD 28.1 billion worth of oil exported from the Kingdom to China in 2020 accounted for 15.9 per cent of China's total crude oil imports.
Iraq found itself in third place, shipping USD 19.2 billion (10.9 per cent) worth to the mainland over 2020. Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait were also among China's top 10 suppliers, exporting USD 12,8 billion (7.3 per cent), USD 9.7 billion (5.5 per cent), and USD 9 billion (5.1 per cent) respectively.
Considering China's dependence on foreign suppliers for oil remains over 70 per cent, Chinese fears of such disruptions to the energy supply chain will only grow.
By 2060, China will need to protect the sea lines of communication to ensure the integrity of its oil and gas supply chains. This reality increases the possibility that Beijing will seek to establish more military outposts to enhance its naval power projection capabilities, according to Asia Times.