Introduction: China, oil and global politics
China needs oil and needs oil in ever-increasing quantities. Until 1993, China was an exporter of oil; since then, its demand for oil imports has grown steadily and inexorably. Net imports of oil reached 150 million tonnes in 2004 and 220 million tonnes in 2009, some 55 per cent of the nation’s total oil consumption, and are projected to rise to 400-500 million tonnes per year by 2020. China will, in the process, overtake the United States as the largest net importer of oil. Oil is not the only commodity that China is importing in increasing quantities. Gas is another critical energy commodity that is being imported from abroad. But similar markedly upward trajectories for imports are found with numerous other primary commodities, such as timber, minerals, cereals, rice and soybeans. This surging demand for imports reflects the extraordinary growth, particularly during the 2000s, of China’s economy. It also reflects the reality that China is emerging as one of the most important power houses of the global economy along with the associated need to meet the increased wealth and levels of consumption of China’s 1.3 billion population. This surge in commodity imports, mirrored by the expansion in China’s exports of manufactured goods, is one of the most visible and concrete expressions of China’s emergent rise to great power status.