Oil imports accounted for about 62 percent of the Asian economic giant’s total crude consumption in 2021. Warm ties with Moscow, discounts offered by Russian producers, and threats by the United States and its allies to cut access to sea-based trade routes have prompted Beijing to look to its northern neighbor for more and more of its energy needs.
China’s imports of Russian oil surpassed those from Saudi Arabia in May, jumping 55 percent year-on-year and setting a new record, according to data published by the Chinese General Administration of Customs.
Russian oil accounted for 8.42 million metric tons of the People’s Republic’s imports last month, equivalent to nearly 2 million barrels per day (bpd), up from 1.59 million bpd in April. Saudi Arabia, China’s other key partner for oil, accounted for 7.82 million tons, or 1.84 million bpd, down from 2.17 million bpd in April. China’s purchases of Russian liquefied natural gas also increased, to 397,000 tons (a 54 percent bump), despite an overall 28 percent drop in Beijing’s purchases of the energy source.
Bloomberg has calculated that Russia delivered some $7.4 billion worth of energy to China last month, about one billion dollars more than those in April and double figures during the same period in 2021.
China’s total imports from Russia also jumped, to $10.27 billion total – up a whopping 80 percent year-on-year.
Russian oil exports to China, India and other Asian countries have shot up dramatically over the past four months amid efforts by the US and its European allies to either permanently ban or set severe restrictions on these supplies in their own markets to “punish” Moscow for its military operation in Ukraine.
Russia and China have ramped up economic, diplomatic and security cooperation over the past three decades, with Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping establishing a close personal rapport after the Chinese leader came to power in 2013.
China is expected to surpass the United States as the world’s number one economy by the end of the current decade, and already passed the US by purchasing power parity as far back as 2013, according to the World Bank.