Chen Tonghai

Director and chairman, Sinopec Corporation; president, Sinopec Group

Nationality: Chinese.

Born: September 1948, in Huimin, Shandong, China.

Education: Northeastern Petroleum Institute, 1976, bachelor's degree in exploration and oil extracting engineering.

Career: Daqing Research Institute, 1969–1972, geologist; Zhejiang Science and Technology Commission, 1976–1983, staff member, deputy director; Zhenhai Petroleum and Petrochemical General Plant, 1983–1986, deputy party secretary, party secretary; Ningbo City, 1986–1989, acting deputy mayor; Zhejiang Province Planning and Economic Commission, 1989–1991, acting deputy director; Ningbo City, 1991–1992, acting mayor; 1992–1994, mayor; State Development and Planning Commission, 1994–1998, vice minister; China Petrochemical Company Group, vice president, 1998–; president, 2003–; Sinopec Corporation, 2000–2003, director and vice chairman, first board of directors; 2003–, director and chairman, second board of directors.

Address: Sinopec Corporation, No. A6 Hui xin East Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China 100029;

■ Chen Tonghai began his working life as a geologist, quickly moving into management at the Zhejiang Science and Technology Commission and the Zhenhai Petroleum and Petrochemical General Plant after he earned his degree. He entered the political scene in the mid-1980s, when he served as a deputy party secretary and party secretary. By the late 1990s Chen was a major player in China's petroleum and chemical industry and was quickly becoming known worldwide. As the highly visible director and chairman of Sinopec Corporation, Chen was consistently forceful, progressive, and willing to take a stand when necessary and present positive designs for the future.


After working as a geologist and manager early in his career Chen became interested in politics. In 1986 he was named acting deputy mayor of Ningbo City in Zhejiang Province. Chen rose through the ranks of city government in the next few years, ultimately becoming mayor of Ningbo City in 1992. During that time he also served as acting deputy director of the planning and economic commission of Zhejiang Province. In 1994 Chen left city politics to become a vice minister of the state development and planning commission.


Chen's background as a geologist led him to the China Petrochemical Company Group. He became vice president of the company in 1998 and president in 2003. He added Sinopec Corporation to his responsibilities in 2000, when he became director and vice chairman of Sinopec's first board of directors. He became director and chairman of Sinopec's second board of directors in 2003.

In China's petroleum and chemical industry Chen had a wealth of knowledge and expertise on which to draw. As head of Sinopec, Chen was considered a senior economist and an experienced senior-level administrator in the petrochemical industry and in macroeconomic control. In 2003 Chen announced plans for three oil-receiving terminals and two pipelines between cities on the east coast of China. The new facilities, set to be operational by 2006 at a cost of CNY 8 billion, would streamline refinery operation, according to Chen. Proving again that he was not hesitant to make crucial decisions, Chen also announced that Sinopec's streamlined operations would allow the company to cut its staff by up to 50,000 jobs over the three-year period of construction.

When concerns about the Chinese economy arose in early 2004, Chen stepped forward with reassurances. Oil consumption would return to its normal rate, he stated, because China's economic development would continue. Addressing the energy shortage that affected two-thirds of China at that time, Chen said fuel supplies to power plants had been increased by one-half million tons to ease the current problem.


Chen became known and respected worldwide. In early 2004 he visited Gabon, Africa, at the invitation of the Gabonese ministry of mines and energy. Chen and Minister Richard Onouviet made decisions regarding mutual cooperation in the use of energy resources. Along with their respective heads of state, Chen and Onouviet signed a memorandum of understanding outlining future cooperation. Also in 2004 the deputy minister of economic affairs for Iran, Seyed Mohammad Hosein Adeli, offered a vote of confidence to Chen, saying the options China was pursuing in its energy strategy were "proper" and "not aggressive," though China had come late to world energy cooperation. Adeli invited closer cooperation between Iranian and Chinese energy leaders.

At the Boao Forum for Asia in April 2004 Chen delivered an address in which he discussed future challenges to the energy industry, including marine and land transportation and safety and stability issues. He also addressed China's growing dependence on imported oil as its economic growth continued. Peace and development, Chen said, were crucial to a stable world oil market in which there is shared interest and common development. Chen called for increased cooperation and coordination between governments for effective distribution of resources. He especially challenged Asian countries to work together in production, infrastructure, refining, storage and transportation, and research and development.

China, Chen said, was taking positive steps in the fields of oil exploration and production, development of natural gas reserves, and conservation of resources at home and abroad. As the largest refiner and the second-largest oil producer in China, Sinopec had been effective, Chen noted, in its overall energy strategy. Sinopec also worked actively with foreign companies in the development of natural gas resources. Chen cited the good relations Sinopec had developed with African and central and southeast Asian countries and the cooperative efforts it had used with Western oil companies such as Exxon, Shell, and BP. Chen showed himself willing to work with international partners, saying producers should "join hands to maintain the stability of the world petroleum market and create a better tomorrow for the world petroleum and petrochemical industry."

See also entry on China National Petroleum Corporation in International Directory of Company Histories .

sources for further information

Chan, Elaine, "Sinopec Plans 8b Yuan Infrastructure Spend," The Standard , August 27, 2003.

Chen Tonghai, "Jointly Face the Challenge in Petroleum Resources and Market," speech before Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference, April 2004, (June 8, 2004).

"Chen Tonghai Paid a Visit to Gabon, Africa," Sinopec Corp. News and Events, (June 8, 2004).

"China Vitae," (June 8, 2004).

Hi, Xiao, "Oil Demand Growth to Maintain Rational Level," China Daily , April 26, 2004.

"Slower Economy to Tame Oil Use," Shanghai Daily , April 26, 2004.

—Cathy Seckman

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