How China ended its dry crude oil period after 1949
In the early years of the People’s Republic of China, the country faced a dire shortage of crude oil. In 1949, when the country was founded, its entire oil production volume was only 120,000 tons – so small it had to buy more from the Soviet Union.
Foreign geologists once asserted that China was a country short of crude-oil, an argument widely believed until the late 1950s when an oil field was discovered in Daqing, northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, later known as the oil capital of China.
For thousands of oil workers in Daqing, contributing their strength to the country’s industrial take-off meant the world. Sixty years ago, a man called Wang Jinxi led a team of oil workers and assembled a 40-meter oil rig with their bare hands and simple tools in just three days. The drilling was carried out in no time but with great difficulty due to the extreme cold; nothing could stop the oil workers’ determination.
Wang often told his co-workers: “An industry without oil is like a heart without blood.” When the oil worker visited Beijing, he was curious about vehicles with large inflated bags on top of them. Wang asked a driver what it was. The man replied: “it’s gas-powered because there’s no gasoline.”
The words cut Wang hard. Then he made up his mind – this has to change, even at the cost of his life.
One time Wang had to jump into a pool of cement and oil and cover it with his own body to stop a blowout. People were touched by his bravery and hailed the captain as the “Iron Man.”
In just three years, the Daqing Oilfield was successfully explored and developed, with an annual capacity of 5 million tons of oil. Since then, China has been able to fuel its individualization. In 2020, the country’s total crude oil production volume reached 195 million tons, roughly 1,600 times the number in 1949, according to China’s National Energy Administration.
Over the decades, there are many oil workers and experts who have devoted their life, wisdom and passion to boosting China’s petroleum industry. Their self-reliant, can-do “Iron Man” spirit has put an end to China’s dry period once and for all, and helped make a difference in the country’s modernization.