Crude oil is China’s second-most valuable imported good after integrated electronic circuits and microassemblies.
Forty-four countries supplied crude petroleum oil to mainland China in 2021 including smaller suppliers like Albania, Algeria, Bolivia, Brunei Darussalam and Ivory Coast.
The top 5 exporters (Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq, Oman and Angola) provided about three-fifths (59.6%) of China’s crude oil imports in 2021.
Roughly half (50.7%) of Chinese imported crude oil originated from nine Middle Eastern nations ranging from $39.9 billion provided by Saudi Arabia to $232.3 million worth of unprocessed petroleum from Egypt.
OPEC Crude Oil Supplied to China in US Dollars
China’s overall $229.3 billion worth of imported crude oil purchases was highly impacted by price-setting action initiated by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). However, that economic dependency has weakened over the past 5 years. OPEC countries furnished 50% of China’s spending on crude oil imported in 2021, compared to 53.2% in 2017.
Year over year, OPEC was responsible for a 48.1% share the prior year in 2020. This means that China’s buying from OPEC members increased to the 50% metric registered during 2021.
For both OPEC and non-OPEC sales, crude oil is priced in American dollars on world markets. Economists explain that the US dollar is the only fiat currency with a large enough financial infrastructure to support the global trade of crude oil.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2021, the Chinese yuan appreciated by 4.6% against the US dollar since 2017 and strengthened by 0.1% from 2020 to 2021. The stronger Chinese yuan makes China’s imported crude oil paid for in weaker US dollars relatively less expensive when converted starting from Chinese yuans.
China’s Top Providers of Imported Crude Oil
Below are the top 15 countries that supplied 90.1% of the crude oil imported into mainland China during 2021.
- Saudi Arabia: US$39.9 billion (17.4% of China’s crude oil imports)
- Russia: $35.8 billion (15.6%)
- Iraq: $23.5 billion (10.2%)
- Oman: $20.2 billion (8.8%)
- Angola: $17.3 billion (7.5%)
- Kuwait: $14.1 billion (6.2%)
- United Arab Emirates: $14 billion (6.1%)
- Brazil: $13.8 billion (6%)
- Malaysia: $7.3 billion (3.2%)
- Norway: $5.8 billion (2.5%)
- United States: $5.3 billion (2.3%)
- Congo: $4.1 billion (1.8%)
- Qatar: $3.8 billion (1.7%)
- United Kingdom: $3.7 billion (1.6%)
- Colombia: $3.6 billion (1.6%)
By value, the above 15 main crude petroleum providers supplied 92.6% of Chinese imported crude oil during 2021. That percentage represents an uptick from the 90% for China’s 15 major crude oil suppliers one year earlier in 2020.
Fastest-Growing Suppliers of China’s Imported Crude Oil
The value of Chinese purchases of crude oil from its top 15 suppliers amounted to a subtotal $212.3 billion in 2021, accelerating by an average 33.8% from the $158.7 billion worth of imported crude petroleum bought from those top 15 providers during 2020.
- Malaysia: Up 100.1% since 2020
- Qatar: Up 92.5%
- United Kingdom: Up 73.2%
- Oman: Up 58.1%
- Kuwait: Up 57.9%
- United Arab Emirates: Up 44.2%
- Saudi Arabia: Up 42.3%
- Norway: Up 35.7%
- Congo: Up 35.7%
- Russia: Up 31.1%
- Angola: Up 24.4%
- Iraq: Up 22.3%
- Colombia: Up 3.3%
- Brazil: Down -0.7%
- United States: Down -16.1%
Year over year, 13 of the top 15 crude oil exporters increased their international sales of crude oil to mainland China compared to 2020.
There was only a pair of decliners among China’s top 15 sources of crude oil namely the United States of America (down -16.1% from 2020) and Brazil (down -0.7%).
Expanding the scope to include all 44 crude oil suppliers to mainland China, there were 23 gainers from 2020 to 2021. Those ranged from triple-digit increases for Libya (up 258.3%), Democratic Republic of the Congo (up 152.9%), Mongolia (up 139.1%) and Malaysia (up 100.1%) to more modest increases for Brunei Darussalam (up 12%), Indonesia (up 3.5%) and Colombia (up 3.3%).
Leading the decliners were China’s crude oil sources in Algeria (down 91.6% since 2020), Azerbaijan (down -78%), Ivory Coast (down -63.8%), South Sudan (down -56.2%) and Chad (down -54%).
See also Crude Oil Exports by Country, Crude Oil Imports by Country, China’s Top 10 Exports and China’s Top 10 Imports and Saudi Arabia’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on June 23, 2022
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (Domestic Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on June 23, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 23, 2022
Wikipedia, List of crude oil products. Accessed on June 23, 2022