In an attempt to soothe its massive demand for growth, while trying to satisfy its hunger for commodities, China is expanding its array of importers.
The world's third largest economy's involvement in Africa is increasingly visible. China is already the biggest importer of iron, chromium, and manganese ore, all of which is prosperous in Africa. The rise of China is also felt in other mining nations.
The fastest growing major economy bought more than half its crude needs in 2009 from abroad and may rely on imports for 58% of its requirements by 2015, to feed expanding Chinese industries.
Nigeria has signed an agreement to build the largest African oil refinery at an estimated $8-b, to produce 300 000 barrels a day, with Chinese investors holding at least 25% in the refinery.
PetroChina, that nation's largest oil and gas producer, also plans to build gasoline and diesel hydro treaters to produce 42 000 barrels of cleaner fuel a day.
According to the figures published by Trade Map, China imported merely 30% of world import chrome ore in 2002, but in the following six years this figure escalated to 68%, an increase of 126.7%.
Chromium ore imports in China increased by 492.4% from 2002 to 2009. The importance of stainless steel and the strengthening effect of chrome, made this commodity popular all over the world.
As China's iron ore demand continues to surpass supply, China will continue to seek alternative means of imports. China iron ore imports accounted for 56% of world total iron ore imports, an increase of 166.7% from 21% in 2002.
Iron ore imports from South Africa, Ukraine and Canada more than doubled in 2009.
According to the General Administration of Customs, SA iron ore exports to China rose by 140% in 2009 to 34.13-m tonnes.
Chinese iron ore imports rose by 4.1% to 309.3-m tons between January and June 2010 y/y. The average iron ore import price rose by 47% to US$ 111.5 per tonne in the same period.
China is not becoming a net importer, however. Even with China's $117.4-b total imports, the trade gap increased by 140% in June, to $20.02-b. June trade surplus is highest this year, and exports have hit new record highs.
China remains the world's largest exporting nation, and may soon reap benefits from scrapping a two-year peg to the dollar. Most suppliers to China are buying more Chinese products than ever before.
* Corniel van Niekerk is an econometrician at Economic Trend SA, visit www.economictrendsa.co.za