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Is China a Resource Poor Nation?

China has repeatedly been billed as the largest energy consumer and portrayed as possible future aggressor in the quest for more energy, mineral, and even water resources. Most western press also mentioned that China is a resource poor country that consumed a prodigious amount of minerals. However, the first point is factually wrong.

According to CIA, Here are top 15 country oil import break down (The figure is in BBL/Day):

1 United States 10,270,000 2009 est.
2 European Union 8,613,000 2009 est.
3 China 5,080,000 2011 est.
4 Japan 4,394,000 2009 est.
5 India 3,060,000 2009 est.
6 Germany 2,671,000 2009 est.
7 Netherlands 2,577,000 2009 est.
8 Korea, South 2,500,000 2011 est.
9 France 2,220,000 2009 est.
10 Singapore 2,052,000 2009 est.
11 Italy 1,800,000 2009 est.
12 Spain 1,584,000 2009 est.
13 United Kingdom 1,450,000 2009 est.
14 Canada 1,088,000 2009 est.
15 Belgium 1,007,000 2009 est.

Below is the top 15 natural gas importation nations (Figures are Cubic Meter):

1 European Union 420,600,000,000 NA
2 United States 105,800,000,000 2010 est.
3 Germany 99,630,000,000 2010 est.
4 Japan 98,010,000,000 2010 est.
5 Italy 70,200,000,000 2011 est.
6 United Kingdom 53,630,000,000 2010 est.
7 France 46,200,000,000 2010 est.
8 Korea, South 42,380,000,000 2010 est.
9 Russia 38,200,000,000 2010 est.
10 Turkey 38,040,000,000 2010 est.
11 Spain 36,710,000,000 2010 est.
12 China 30,000,000,000 2011 est.
13 Ukraine 26,700,000,000 2009 est.
14 Netherlands 25,770,000,000 2010 est.
15 Canada 22,530,000,000 2010 est.

Regional   energy use
kWh/capita Population (mil) Total Consumption
2008 2008 2008
USA 87216 305 26600880
EU-27 40821 502 20492142
Middle East 34774 199 6920026
China 18608 1333 24804464
Latin America 14421 462 6662502
Africa 7792 984 7667328
India 6280 1140 7159200
The World 21283 6688 142340704
Source: IEA/OECD, Population OECD/World Bank

Wait a minute, isn’t China the largest energy guzzler according to the mainstream western press? Well, if we go by per capita consumption, China isn’t even in the top fifty! And to argue that China is the biggest energy user and polluter by virtue of its 1.3 billion population base is either malicious or intellectually deficient. Because if one is to argue that the USA should have the same total energy consumption as Canada (a country 1/10 the population of the USA), it would make no sense. However, China is always conveniently labelled the biggest polluter for reason only those writers understood.

As we are know, energy and mineral resources of planet earth is finite. This article is not to support continual increased consumption by China or point finger at any country. It is imperative that we as citizens of the world find a sustainable consumption rate for the sake of our future generation. For example, if we believe that the per capita consumption of the leading nations is sustainable than by all mean encourage everybody to reach the same level. If not, we should figure out the sustainable per capita consumption.

China is presently the largest consumer of many minerals like aluminum (1/3 of world’s total), iron ore (1/2), copper, zinc, tin and even gold. But most people do not know that China is the world’s largest producer of aluminum (1/4), zinc, lead, gold and is also major producer of iron, copper, tin, nickel etc. Contrary to common belief most of the mineral resources consumed are not for manufacturing re-export. For example, in 2005, China consumed 2,318, 000 metric tons of zinc but still managed to export 7,000 metric tons.

Of course, this is a rather short term development and will not continue indefinitely. China since early 2000s is going through a gigantic phase of construction and development. In the past decade, China on average produced new dwelling for 20 million people a year. In 2012 China has an urbanization rate of 51% meaning approximately 660 million people are still living in small rural villages. Depending on national policy and eventual economic progress another 300-400 million people would be urbanized. And when China’s urban population stabilized and stop growing the demand will wind down. In contrast the UK, US, Germany urbanization rate is 90%, 82% and 74% respectively. In 2010 China also has 86,000 km of railway behind 224,792 km of the US and 87,157 km of Russia. China also have 3,860,800 km (2009) of roadway behind 6,506,204 km of the US. So it is obvious, China’s construction boom will continue for easily twenty years. Again China is described as veraciously building for the sake of building or for show off purpose. Nothing is mentioned that China is woefully under developed compared to developed economies.

Due to recent publicity of China’s rare earth export policy, it is common knowledge that China has around 1/3 of rare earth reserve but supplied 9/10 of the world’s demand for this mineral. China is also the largest producer of antimony (alloying material for lead and tin), manganese (treatment for rust and corrosion prevention on steel), molybdenum (alloying agent each for stainless steels, tool steels, cast irons and high-temperature super alloys), vanadium, magnetite, tungsten and important exporter of barite (used in oil drilling fluids, flares, paint and medicine), fluorspar (used in metallurgical and chemical industries), graphite (used in metallurgical processes. The US imports 87% of its fluorspar and all of its graphite.

With so much misinformation few would realized that China is the 3rd largest country in term of mineral and energy reserve after Russia and Canada. In fact, if China is to be removed from the supply and consumption chain the world would suffer an even more catastrophic financial collapse than the 2008 fiasco. As for energy reserve China has the 3rd largest coal reserve. China’s oil reserve is ranked no.14 while its natural gas reserve is no.29. The present coal production is 1/3 of the world’s production and is definitely unsustainable. However, China has the largest shale gas reserve anywhere in the world. A U.S. Energy Information Administration report in April 2011 said that China had 1,275 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of technically recoverable shale gas resources — by far the largest in the world, followed by the United States with 862 tcf and Argentina with 774 tcf. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/07/china-shale-sinopec-idUSL5E7N705Y20111207

On the negative side the burning of coal, oil and gas which account for 9/10 of China’s present energy need is creating unnecessary pollution which will costs more in term of health and environment. To counter that the Chinese government is investing heavily in cleaner coal fired plants and alternate energy.

Below is an interview abstract with Fred Palmer who has worked in the US coal industry for more than 30 years. He is the senior vice president of government relations at Peabody Energy, the world’s largest privately owned coal company which bases itself in St Louis, Missouri. He gave a very good summary of China’s coal consumption usage:

On China’s efforts to clean up coal: “China is ahead of the US and we should be doing what they are doing. We’ll figure it out, though. We’re not about saying we’re better or worse than another country. We believe that everyone on Earth has the right to live as well as we do.”

“I think it’s good for the US [that China uses so much coal] because it is taking the pressure off of oil. China uses coal the way the world uses oil. Last year, China did 3.5 billion tonnes of coal. When I started at Peabody 10 years ago, they were at 1.5bn tonnes. They’ve grown by [the equivalent of] two USAs in the last 10 years. Half of it is not electricity generation, though. A big slug is steel, but some is coal-to-chemicals, coal-to-liquids, coal-to-hydrogen, and coal-to-methanol. Their biggest use for coal right now is not electricity generation, but Btu conversion. In a ‘peak oil’ world, we should applaud what China is doing because it makes the world better for everyone for no other reason that it takes huge price pressures off of oil.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/mar/08/fred-palmer-peabody-coal-interview

On top of that China has potentially the highest renewable energy reserve in the form of hydroelectricity, solar and wind. The Chinese government has announced plans to expand the installed Hydroelectricity energy to 300 Gigawatts (GW) in 2020 and solar power capacity to 20 GW by 2020 . http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/bizchina/2009-07/03/content_8350947.htm

China aims to have 100 GW of on-grid wind power generating capacity by the end of 2015 and to generate 190 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of wind power annually. If all go according to plan renewable energy would account for 1/5 of China’s energy need by 2020. China has planned to build another 30 nuclear power generators within 15 years with total installed capacity of 80 GW by 2020. For comparison purpose China has total electricity consumption of 4,693 billion kW (2011), US 3,741 billion kW (2009), EU 3,037 billion kW (2009), Japan 859 billion kW (2011), Russia 857 billion kW (2008), India 600 billion kW (2008), Canada 549 billion kW (2008), Germany 544 billion kW (2008).

So in no way is China an excessive consumer of energy. As can be seen by the figures, most industrialized countries with manufacturing capacity are top of the list. This reflect the fact that a part of the energy used is actually for finished goods export. Heating is also a large source of energy usage for some of these countries. What is certain is the energy consumption of China and India is set to increase because it is obvious that no matter how one want to twist fact a higher quality lifestyle requires more energy. It is imperative that a greener lifestyle is required of all the leading economies.


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  1. Charles Liu
    May 17th, 2012 at 09:32 | #1

    In all these “China energy monster” story, media usually do not mention the fact significant % of China’s resource utilization is to manufacture good for the West, who’s citizens are already the top energy consumers on per-capita basis.

    You know, these Official Narrative paints China negatively in any light possible, and the mass just gobble them up:

    Over-population/birth restriction
    resource poor/withholding rare earth exports
    import oil/high sulfur coal
    not engaging internationally/aid African despots

    China can’t win with this kind of indoctrination.

  2. Zack
    May 17th, 2012 at 13:20 | #2

    The only thing China is a threat towards, is the Western notion of superiority, be it cultural, moral, technological or economic.

  3. May 17th, 2012 at 14:01 | #3

    I think many of them may be projecting into the future and seeing China’s projected use of resources such as petrol and natural gas.

  4. May 17th, 2012 at 15:27 | #4

    The WWF 2012 Living Planet report is out:

    Here is a take on it:
    “Two Earths would be needed to sustain human activity by 2030, report finds ”

    Mankind is draining the earth’s resources so quickly the globe would be bled dry before the end of the century at this rate, a new report shows.

    . . .

    “If all of humanity lived like an average resident of Indonesia, only two-thirds of the planet’s biocapacity would be used,” the WWF report states. “If everyone lived like an average resident of the USA, a total of four Earths would be required to regenerate humanity’s annual demand on nature.”

    The report named Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, USA, Belgium, Australia, Canada, Netherlands and Ireland as the top ten offending nations.

  5. colin
    May 18th, 2012 at 10:04 | #5


    Great link. Show’s the underlying dynamic that the western world chooses to hypocritically ignore.

  6. Zack
    May 19th, 2012 at 12:40 | #6

    All this and we haven’t even covered China’s massive stockpiles of oil, gas, rare earths, pork, rice etc etc, as well as Chinese control and investments in worldwide commodities and firms.

  7. Sleeper
    May 20th, 2012 at 09:44 | #7

    …….And it’s the reason that the West wants China to become chaotic and soon most Chinese DIE OUT.

    An “emptied” China could make their cities of Sodom last a bit longer.

  8. June 4th, 2012 at 10:18 | #8


    China’s total forest area increased to 195 million hectares from 134 million hectares in 1992, marking a net gain of 60 million hectares in 20 years, the State Forestry Administration (SFA) said yesterday.

    Despite a decreasing global forest reserve, China’s forest inventory expanded by 3.6 billion cubic meters to reach 13.7 billion cubic meters during the past 20 years, SFA Vice Minister Yin Hong said.

    China has strengthened its fiscal support for increasing forest area, launched a number of national ecological projects and implemented a nationwide compulsory tree-planting program to expand forests since the inking of the first global environmental treaty at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, Yin said.

    The country currently has 61.68 million hectares of man-made forest, the most in the world, and 7.81 billion tons of forest-carbon stock. Its desertification area is dropping by 1,717 square kilometers annually, compared to an annual expansion of 3,436 square kilometers at the end of the 1990s, according to Yin.

    Yin said the Chinese government will continue to increase investment in the sector, focusing its energy on forest cultivation, wetland, wildlife and habitat protection, and land desertification control.

    China aims to expand its total forest area by 40 million hectares, and its total forest inventory by 1.3 billion cubic meters from 2005 to 2020.

    Moreover, the country will convert 106 hectares of farmland into forest during its 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-15), Yin said.

    To date, China has invested 325 billion yuan ($51.59 billion) in converting cropland to forests from 1999 to 2011, she noted.


  9. June 10th, 2012 at 12:52 | #9

    A Chinese fisherman, on his own initiative planted 200,000 trees over 20 yrs.


  10. July 13th, 2012 at 17:21 | #10

    In this article where mostly oil, gas and forest reserve is counted, China is ranked 6th. However, it does admit that including shale gas China’s ranking would be higher.


    And in keeping with the China bashing theme, this article titled “A Shocking Number Of Minerals Are Controlled By China” conclude that “China is the leading producer of over half of the minerals listed in the British Geological Survey. From alumina to zinc, China is the leading producer of at least 38 minerals.”


    In this ranking by common mineral, China is again ranked 6th

  11. April 18th, 2013 at 22:31 | #11
  12. Zack
    April 7th, 2014 at 05:55 | #13

    beautiful posts, Ray
    actions speak louder than words and it’s clear who the real villain at copenhagen really was, especially in light of Snowden’s whistleblowing that the US had done all it could to destroy copenhagen and laying all the blame on China

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