China’s appetite for imported hydrocarbons has gained a global dimensionnow that demand for oil is increasing faster than supply. Increasing energyimports are a matter of great concern to both the Chinese government, whichseeks to ensure that China has the energy resources it needs to sustaineconomic growth, and the Western powers worrying about the international political implications of China’s quest for energy security. In this articlesome aspects and issues of China’s industrialization drive will be discussedin connection with the country’s oil diplomacy as an aspect of its increasingintegration into the capitalist globalization process. It must be kept in mindthat the China has officially chosen for
the capitalist road to socialism
. Thischoice is completely in line with the governmental mission of industrializingChina by opening the economy to the world market. In this article someaspects of this capitalist modernization process will be studied, especiallyhow the Chinese rulers are dealing with the energy problem. Especially providing the country with enough oil has become China’s biggestchallenge.
China’s oil consumption
Today, China is the second largest oil consumer, behind the U.S. Itcompetes with the US, Japan, India, and Europe for oil. In recent years,China has been undergoing a process of industrialization and is one of thefastest growing economies in the world. With real gross domestic productgrowing at a rate of 8-10% a year, China's need for energy is projected toincrease by 150 percent by 2020. This makes China extremely vulnerable toany upheaval in the major oil-producing countries in the Near East and Asia.Thus, China’s energy security activities can largely be explained in terms of the Chinese government’s long-standing fear of foreign energy dependency, particularly China’s reliance on energy resources controlled by the UnitedStates. At present, China imports 80 million tons of crude oil a year. Its oilconsumption rises at average by some 7 percent a year. According toforecasts, by 2020 the country's demand for oil could reach 400 million tonsannually. This helps explain recent oil shortages and actual high prices for crude.To sustain its growth China requires increasing amounts of oil. Since it became a net oil importer in 1993, China has traversed the globe in a franticquest for oil to fuel its booming economy. A part of growing Chinese oilconsumption has accelerated mainly because of a large-scale transitiontoward private automobiles. Hence, its oil consumption grows by 7.5% per year, seven times faster than the U.S. Consequently, by year 2010 China isexpected to have 90 times more cars than in 1990. With automobile numbersgrowing at 19% a year, projections show that China could surpass the totalnumber of cars in the U.S. by 2030. Another contributor to the sharpincrease in automobile sales is the very low price of gasoline in China.Chinese gasoline prices now are a third of retail prices in Europe and Japan.China’s ability to provide for its own needs is limited by the fact that its proven oil reserves are small in relation to its consumption. Though during