scorecardRussia-China ties deepen as Beijing buys a record amount of oil from the warring nation in the first half of 2023
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Russia-China ties deepen as Beijing buys a record amount of oil from the warring nation in the first half of 2023

Phil Rosen   

Russia-China ties deepen as Beijing buys a record amount of oil from the warring nation in the first half of 2023
Stock Market2 min read
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a welcome ceremony before Russia - China talks in narrow format at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia March 21, 2023    Sputnik/Sergei Karpukhin/Pool via REUTERS
  • China imported 2.13 million barrels per day of Russian crude in the first half of 2023.
  • Russia so far this year has been the top oil supplier to China, peaking at 2.57 million barrels a day in June.

China imported a record amount of Russian crude oil in the first half of 2023, snapping up more than two million barrels per day from the warring nation.

Over the last six months, China imported 11.4 million barrels per day of crude, an 11.7% jump from the same time last year according to Financial Times data. Of that, 2.13 million barrels a day came from Russia, with those imports peaking to 2.57 million in June.

Meanwhile, China imported 1.88 million barrels a day from Saudi Arabia in the first half of the year, with Iraq, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Brazil falling in line afterward.

Chinese customs data cited by the FT implies that Russian barrels have come cheaper than those from other OPEC+ nations since the start of the war in Ukraine.

At any rate, Russia has had to increasingly rely on China over the last year and a half, since thousands of companies have pulled out of the country and other nations have shunned trade with Moscow. The bulk of Russia's exports are sent to China, but the reverse isn't true: Russia is far down on the pecking order when it comes to Beijing's most prominent trade partners.

"Clearly Russia is much more dependent on China to provide it with the imports and advanced manufactured products it needs, while Russian markets represent a negligible secondary opportunity for Chinese businesses," according to Yale researcher Jeffrey Sonnenfeld.

Russia's economy continues to deteriorate, with the country's central bank reporting a 93% decline in its current account surplus last quarter. But China's economy isn't exactly humming along as well as expected either. The much-anticipated post-COVID rebound has yet to materialize, and some experts don't expect it to come anytime soon.

Some strategists maintain that Vladimir Putin still holds some leverage in his dealings with Beijing. Think tank writer Mikhail Korostikov said it isn't a guarantee that the dictator becomes subservient to President Xi Jinping.

"The relationship between Russia and China is by no means perfect, but the shared interests of both countries' leaderships and the strategic logic of the confrontation with the West create a solid foundation for reasonably equal cooperation," he said. "Within that interaction, China does have a certain opportunity to turn Russia into its vassal — but, crucially, it has no compelling reasons to do so."




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