China has overtaken the United States as the largest oil importer; an event which may dramatically change world’s geopolitics. The Energy Information Administration has reported in early March that the US crude import has come down to 5.98 million barrels a day. This is the lowest import figure since 1996 for the US. On the other, China’s oil imports increased to 6.12 million barrels a day.
China’s ride into the throne of leading energy importer also may give it the right to play a more active role in global oil politics. Ensuring uninterrupted supply of oil is a political and to an extent military exercise. All this implies that the East Asian power has to create a more political space in the global arena. Of course, this is the activity that the US has been performing in the Middle East so far.
The reasons for China displacing the US on the energy front are also interesting. Most important is that US is developing alternative energy sources like Shale gas for its energy needs. Secondly, it also has initiated measures to boost domestic oil production in the late 1980s and such measures have started rewarding now. Gradually, the US can start disappearing from world’s muddy oil politics as its energy import reliance comes down. On the other hand, China can start its innings learning from the lessons of its predecessor. The way and extent to which the Mandarin country executes its oil politics is interesting to watch.