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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 August, 2004, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
High oil prices hit China growth
Chinese worker in oil refinery
China has been a net importer of crude oil since 1996
Rising oil prices are expected to hit China's growth rate this year.

The rise in the price of oil is expected to push inflation higher, discouraging consumers from spending and hitting company profits.

Oil imports to China, the world's second-largest consumer of oil, for January to July were up 40% on 2003.

As a result, growth this year is likely to slow to 9% from the forecast 9.8%, State Information Centre senior economist Niu Li told Chinese media.

China imports one third of the oil it needs and its demand for oil has been rising in line with the growth of economy.

The price of oil has been pushed higher by uncertainty about supply and rising demand. China will now have to pay an extra $8.8bn (4.78bn) to import its usual 880 million barrels of oil this year.

Inflation fears

Higher oil prices have already pushed up production and material costs, contributing to last month's inflation figure of 5.3%, a seven-year high.

Chinese authorities have already introduced measures aimed at cooling the fast-growing economy.

The measures needed to stay in place a while longer, Guo Shuqing, China's forex chief and deputy head of the central bank, told the Securities Times.

"The problems with the current economy can be boiled down to those of the economic structure, the economic system and growth models, therefore we should make greater efforts to improve the structure," he said.

China has been a net importer of petroleum products since 1993 and of crude oil since 1996.

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