China's crude oil imports surpassed those of the United States in April, making it the world's largest oil importer, recent data showed.
China imported 30.29 million tonnes of crude oil in April, or about 7.37 million barrels per day, data from the General Administration of Customs (GAC) showed last Friday. The United States imported about 7.2 million barrels of oil per day, according to a Financial Times report last Sunday.
China's crude oil imports have surged by 30 percent in the past five years, while those of the United States declined by 30 percent, Li Li, an energy analyst with market research firm ICIS, was quoted as saying by a report on Yicai.com on Monday.
China's oil imports surge was mainly caused by oil stockpiling due to low global oil prices, said Sang Xiao, an analyst with market information supplier www.chem365.net.
The decline in U.S. oil imports is partly due to its shale revolution, which has boosted its domestic production of crude oil, the report from Financial Times said.
However, China is not expected to be the world's top oil importer in the long term, and its oil imports will only surpass those of the United States for some months, Li said.
The United States will still be the world's top energy consumer and importer, Sang said, adding that it will increase imports again when its oil stocks reduce.
In an effort to ensure energy security, the Chinese government will control its oil import volume within a reasonable range and increase support to research and development of new energy resources, Sang said.
The Chinese government demanded that reliance on overseas oil be limited to 61 percent or less of total consumption in its Twelfth Five-Year Plan on Energy Development released in March. The figure neared 60 percent last year, data from the research institute with PetroChina showed.
China's GDP increased from over 30 trillion yuan (4.9 trillion U.S. dollars) to 60 trillion yuan over the past five years, and the world's second largest economy is becoming the world's major oil consumer, Li said.
China used 510 million tonnes of crude oil in 2013, 12.1 percent of the world's total consumption and second only to the United States, data from the Ministry of Commerce showed.
According to the latest statistics from the GAC, China imported 80.34 million tonnes of crude oil in the first three months, up 7.5 percent from a year earlier. The average price of imported crude oil was 2,565.17 yuan per tonne, down 46.8 percent from 4,822.78 yuan per tonne in the first quarter of last year.