With the opening of the finished oil product wholesale sector in China, many foreign petroleum giants including British Petroleum and Shell, are expanding their businesses in China.

BP has now built more than 700 joint venture gas stations in Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces, and Shell has at least 300 joint venture gas stations in China.

Li Lusha, manager in the public affairs department for Shell China, says that by the end of 2005, more than 200 gas stations among the 500 stations jointly built by Shell and Sinopec had been put into use in Jiangsu. Shell also has over 70 joint venture gas stations in Guangdong, Beijing, Tianjin and Sichuan.

Zhao Yuanheng, director of media and communications for BP China, says that they have more than 700 gas stations in Guangdong and Zhejiang, and will soon achieve their goal of constructing 1000 joint venture gas stations in these two regions. He also denies the idea of the company building gas stations on its own in China, as it is devoted to finding and working with partners in all regions it enters.

Other petroleum giants such as Exxon Mobil and Total are also expanding in China. BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil and Total have been authorized to set up a total of eight joint ventures with PetroChina Company, Sinopec and Sinochem, jointly building 3700 gas stations in places like Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Fujian.

So with an ever-increasing number of automobiles on the roads in China, and pollution indices off the charts in some Chinese cities, what's next for these petroleum companies? They need to be more proactive in both working with local NGOs to develop sound energy consumption policies and also work to establish socially responsible ways to educate the public about how they plan to grow their businesses in China.

Sinopec has already inked a deal with McDonald's to build drive-thrus in hundreds of its gas stations around the country, and these driver-friendly programs will only increase the desire to get more Chinese drivers onto the clogged roadways. On the other hand, cities like Beijing have instituted eco-friendly transport means such as buses running on natural gases.

China is in a unique position to lead the world in developing sustainable energy programs. Almost all Chinese still do not own their own cars, so now is the time for petroleum companies to both build better brands and market share through the implementation of sound policies that will last for future generations and that can be models for other countries to follow.