West Must Learn to Manage China’s Growing Middle East Influence

West Must Learn to Manage China’s Growing Middle East Influence

In a recent announcement that went virtually unnoticed in the Western media, an official of Saudi Aramco -- Saudi Arabia's national oil company -- stated that Saudi Arabia aims to double its oil exports to China from last year's levels, reaching 1 million barrels per day by 2010. Should this goal be realized, China will soon rival the United States and Japan as one of the top destinations for Saudi petroleum.

In addition, the China National Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec) already has an agreement with Iran to buy 250 million tons of liquid natural gas from the country over 30 years, and to develop the Yadavaran oil field, which could yield up to 150,000 barrels per day over 25 years.

Since 1993, when China became a net oil importer for the first time, it has increasingly looked to the Middle East as a major source for oil to fuel its rapidly growing economy. The Middle East now supplies around 50 to 60 percent of China's oil imports. Saudi Arabia and Iran in particular have been steadily increasing their share of the Chinese oil market, and these producers are now the top two foreign oil suppliers to China.

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