In 2005, China's crude oil imports rose 3.3 percent year-on-year to 127 million tons, a growth rate 31.5 percent lower than 2004, according to sources with the Ministry of Commerce.
China continues to be the world's third largest crude oil importer after the United States and Japan, the ministry said.
The growth of China's crude oil import only accounted for some 10 percent of the world's overall growth in 2005, while in 2004 it was 30 percent.
Well-informed sources attributed the slowdown of China's oil import growth to the increase of domestic oil output and the corresponding decrease in domestic oil demand.
In 2005, the average crude oil import price for China was US$51.5 per barrel, US$2.80 lower than the international benchmark price, the ministry said.
This shows Chinese companies are learning to protect their interests in the international petroleum market and to avoid price hikes, the ministry said.
As China's oil imports have soared due to its high-speed economic growth in recent years, the country has been trying to reduce its dependence on petroleum from overseas.
Figures show that China imported 120 million tons of crude oil in 2004, or some 40 percent of its oil consumption.
"China will import less oil and oil products in 2006," Lu Jianhua, director of the Foreign Trade Department of the Ministry of Commerce, said.
Official statistics show China's primary energy consumption in 2004 was 1.97 billion tons of standard coal. Its domestic energy supply capacity was 94 percent, among the highest in the world.
In 2004, China contributed some 11 percent of the global energy output, according to statistics from the country's National Development and Reform Commission. The country produced 1.956 billion tons of coal that year. Adding together its oil, natural gas and other energy output, China produced a total of 1.85 billion tons of primary energy in terms of standard coal.
Currently, nearly 70 percent of China's energy demands are met by coal, and petroleum accounts for more than 20 percent of the country's energy supply.
Experts believe that developing new and renewable energies, improving efficiency and keeping the growth of its demand for imported oil at a moderate level will help sustain China's levels of energy consumption.
(Xinhua News Agency January 28, 2006)