The loss of production capacity following weekend attacks on Saudi Arabian oil production facilities and increasing tensions in the region highlighted the outsized impact the kingdom's oil supply has on China, which is already facing worries of economic sluggishness.
China is the world's second-largest importer of oil from Saudi Arabia, having last year bought just under $30 billion worth of crude from the kingdom.
The largest importer of Saudi oil last year was Japan, which bought $31 billion of oil from the Saudis, according to the United Nations-supported International Trade Centre.
The Largest Importers Of Saudi Oil
- Japan: $31.2 billion
- China: $29.6 billion
- South Korea: $23.4 billion
- India: $21.2 billion
- United States: $21.9 billion
Persian Gulf Region Exposure
The good news for China is that Saudi Arabia is only its second-largest supplier of crude oil. The Chinese import more — nearly $38 billion worth — from Russia.
The Chinese are also heavily reliant on Iran — their seventh-largest source of oil last year, at $15 billion — another country at the center of mounting international tension. U.S. officials said the Iranians were behind the Saturday drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities, for which Yemeni-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility, according to the BBC.
The attacks have cut more than half of crude output from the kingdom, which is the world's top overall oil exporter, providing about 5% of the global oil supply.
China is even more exposed to reliance on oil supplies from two other countries in the region: Iraq, from which it bought $22 billion worth of oil last year, and Oman ($17 billion last year).
US Less Exposed
The United States has reduced its reliance on all foreign oil in recent years because of a boost in domestic shale production.
It also relies on a less risky trade partner, Canada, for the biggest slice of its oil imports. The U.S. imported $162.8 billion worth of crude oil last year, and $64.3 billion of it, by far the largest amount, was from its North American neighbors to the north.
U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have warned Asian nations about an over-reliance on oil that must travel through the narrow and potentially conflict-adjacent Strait of Hormuz. In addition to China and Japan, South Korea and Indonesia also all rely heavily on oil shipped through the Strait between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.
European economies are also largely protected from exposure to Saudi oil disruptions. France is one of the continent's largest importers of Saudi oil, but it's just $4 billion worth; most of France's oil comes from Russia.
Germany also gets most of its oil from Russia. Italy's largest supplier is Azerbaijan. The United Kingdom has seven trade partners from which it gets more crude than it does from the Saudis, with its largest supplier, at $11.7 billion, being Norway. The U.K. also imports nearly $4 billion worth of oil from the United States.
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