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China's Oil Imports: Navigating Global Dynamics

In 2023, China reached a new milestone by importing an unprecedented 11.3 million barrels of crude oil daily, marking a 10% increase from the previous year. 

This boost in imports primarily supports the nation's expanding refining industry, fueling demand for transportation fuels and raw materials in the rapidly evolving petrochemical sector. 

According to EIA, Russia stood out as China's primary oil supplier, accounting for 19% of its total imports, or 2.1 million barrels daily. 

There was also a significant rise in oil imports from Iran, Brazil, and the United States

However, reported imports from Malaysia, which surpassed Malaysia's own production, raised suspicions. 

Specifically, imports from Brazil soared by 52% to 755,000 barrels per day, and those from the U.S. climbed by 81% to 286,000 barrels per day. 

China's pivot to more economically priced Russian oil led to reduced imports from costlier markets such as Western Europe. 

For instance, oil imports from Norway saw a reduction of 100,000 barrels per day, with continued lower imports from the United Kingdom.


This shift in import strategy reflects China's adept handling of international trade dynamics and economic sanctions, highlighting its role in shaping the global oil market while enhancing its own energy security and industrial capabilities. 

This strategic adaptation is key for anyone looking to understand global oil trade and China's pivotal influence within it.

China's Oil Imports 2023
China's Oil Imports 2023

Top Trading Partners for China's Oil Imports

A graph published by the EIA displays the changes in crude oil imports by China, comparing the years 2022 and 2023. 

The countries that increased their exports to China include Russia, Iraq, Malaysia, Brazil, the United States, Qatar, and Congo. 

Conversely, the countries that saw a decrease in their exports to China in 2023 were Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Angola, Kuwait, and Norway. 

Notably, many imports attributed to Malaysia, the UAE, and Oman were originally sourced from Iran and relabeled to evade detection. The main trading partners are countries from which China imported more than 150,000 barrels per day of crude oil between 2020 and 2023.

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