China imported nearly 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the U.S. in the first five months of 2017, 10 times the average in 2016, according to data by the Chinese customs.
The upward trend seems to be picking up speed. In April and May, imports surged to more than 180,000 barrels per day on average.
In February, China became the biggest buyer of U.S. crude oil, surpassing Canada, at a time when OPEC was scaling back its output, according to Bloomberg.
China's own falling production, political uncertainty in the Middle East – on which China has long depended for fuel – and the cheaper price of US oil have contributed to the increase in imports.
U.S. oil producers have welcomed China's demand, as opening the taps helps pull them out of a nearly three-year-long price slump that has hurt the job market and hit their bottom line.
While still far below the figure China pays its top suppliers, namely Russia, Saudi Arabia and Angola, the bill for U.S. oil imports could come in well above 1 billion U.S. dollars this year, up from 150 million U.S. dollars in 2016, according to official forecast.