China overtakes U.S. as world’s largest consumer
Thursday, February 17, 2005 China is now the world’s largest consumer of resources, passing the United States.
China’s consumption exceeds the U.S.’s in grain and meat, coal, and steel, with the U.S. only still using more oil a year.
China uses more wheat and rice than the U.S. every year, with the U.S. only taking more corn. In total, China consumed 382 million tons of grain in 2004 while the U.S. used 278 million tons.
The world’s most populous country also eats more meat, consuming 64 million tons a year compared to the U.S.’s 38 million, despite the average Chinese person eating 49 kg a year (the U.S. average is 127 kg).
However the U.S. still uses three times as much oil, consuming 20.4 million barrels a day in 2004 while China uses only 6.5 million. But China’s oil consumption doubled between 1994 and 2004, while the U.S.’s only increased by 15%. Japan is the world’s third largest oil consumer. Car sales doubled in China over the last two years.
China is rapidly heading to being the largest producer of carbon dioxide, the gas responsible for the greenhouse effect. Two-thirds of China’s electricity is generated by burning coal, using 800 million tons a year.
China has a population of 1.3 billion people and its increases in consumption are being driven by a booming economy. However, the country only had an average per-capita income of $5,300 in 2004, one-seventh of the U.S.’s $38,000. The U.S., with its population of around 295 million being about four times less than China’s, still consumes considerably more per person than does China, despite the differences in raw values.
The country now imports large amounts grain, soybeans, iron ore, aluminum, copper, platinum, phosphates, potash, oil and natural gas, forest products for lumber and paper, and cotton. In order to feed its demand for raw materials, the country has formed economic relationships for long term imports from major exporters such as Russia, Brazil and Australia.
The country is also growing rapidly in economic strength; along with Japan, it buys most of the U.S. Treasury’s securities that allows the US to run its huge financial deficit.