It is a moment as striking as the United States surpassing Great Britain in its number of battleships.
Figures just released show that in December, China became the world's largest oil importer for the first time, overtaking the US, which had held first place since the mid-1970s. With economic records regularly falling to the Chinese, this seems another statistic confirming its growing power.
But look beneath the surface, and this role reversal offers more comfort to Washington than Beijing. The fall in American oil imports, down to the lowest since February 1992, is partly because of its dwindling consumption - a combination of a weak economy, tightening fuel standards and the pressure for efficiency driven by high prices.
America's own production is surging, led by the breakthrough in shales in North Dakota and southern Texas, and new drilling technologies in old fields.
This has brought perhaps premature predictions that the US could be a net exporter of oil as early as 2020 - an economic and geopolitical transformation.
The stereotype of the hungry Chinese dragon devouring the world's resources is not without foundation.
It is the world's largest consumer of coal, iron, copper, rice, meat and many other commodities.
It will use almost 10 million barrels per day of oil this year, behind only the US at about 18 million bpd. China's ravenous appetite is a matter of concern in Beijing and around the world.
It has driven oil prices to record highs, and put the country in a position of uncomfortable geopolitical vulnerability.
Efficiency standards, more use of gas and electric vehicles, and exploiting China's own shale resources may help to ease the relentless rise of imports.
But for now, the US energy position is the best it has been for the past 40 years. And major oil producers - including the GCC - increasingly look East for their key customer.
Robin Mills is the head of consulting at Manaar Energy, and author of The Myth of the Oil Crisis and Capturing Carbon