Increasing dependence on oil imports is causing a threat to China's energy security, and China may top the US to become the world's largest importer of oil in the next five years, experts said Wednesday.
"Considering the current growth in oil consumption, that day (China overtaking the US in oil imports) may come even sooner," said Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economic Research at Xiamen University.
China actually imported more oil than the US did for the first time in December last year, importing 6.12 million barrels per day, while the US imported 5.98 million barrels per day over the same period, the lowest level since 1992, data from China's General Administration of Customs and the US Energy Information Administration showed.
In 2012, China consumed 476 million tons of crude oil, up 4.9 percent year-on-year, and total imports amounted to 271 million tons, accounting for 56.4 percent of overall consumption, according to data released in February by the National Development and Reform Commission.
China's dependence on foreign oil was as low as 26 percent in 2000.
The US, meanwhile, has been relying less and less on imported oil by increasing efforts to explore for domestic oil reserves and unconventional energy such as shale gas.
"China should learn from the US and develop more energy substitutes, as well as diversifying the countries it imports oil from," Lin noted.
China is also increasing the use of natural gas and unconventional resources. A five-year plan for the natural gas industry released in December said that domestic supply of natural gas will top 176 billion cubic meters in 2015, up from 107.7 billion cubic meters in 2012.
"But China still lacks the technology to develop energy substitutes, which will make it difficult to reduce its dependence on foreign oil in the short term," said Wang Jintao, an analyst at commodity information provider Zibo Zhongyu Information Technology Co.
Japanese brands search for rebound
Inflation rebounds to 10-month high in Feb.
Halt urged to rising luxury goods prices
China well on way to being largest oil importer
Energy trade surplus for US
China seeks economic transformation