Russia has become China’s top supplier of oil as the two countries continue to build bilateral relations, both economically and politically, while the war in Ukraine continues. Last month, Chinese imports of Russian oil hit record numbers totaling 8.42 million tonnes, overtaking Saudi Arabia and marking a 55 percent increase over last year, according to the Chinese General Administration of Customs. Since the start of the Ukraine invasion, Russia has increasingly leaned on China as a trade partner as western nations cut back on Russian trade and seek complete bans on Russian energy reliance.
Last Friday, Chinese President President Xi Jinping announced that “Today our cooperation between Russia and China [is] rising,” adding “Trade over the first half of this year has been [in the tens of billions of U.S. dollars] and we can expect new records in upcoming months, which is a testament to the great cooperation between our two nations,” according to RT.
Before the invasion, on February 5, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Beijing to announce a strategic partnership between the two nations that has “no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation” while also jointly calling for an end to NATO expansion and opposition to the AUKUS alliance between Australia, the UK and the United States. Putin also voiced support for China and its stance on Taiwan and declared opposition to any independence movements from the Taiwanese government.
Nearly two months later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in Tunxi, China, marking his first trip to the country since the start of the invasion. In a video posted by the Russian Foreign Ministry ahead of the meeting, Lavrov stated that “We, together with you [China], and with our sympathizers will move towards a multipolar, just, democratic world order.” Wang was later quoted by Reuters saying “China is willing to work with Russia to take China-Russian ties to a higher level in a new era under the guidance of the consensus reached by the heads of state,” adding that the two countries are “more determined to develop bilateral ties, and are more confident in promoting cooperation in various fields.”
China has been Russia’s top oil buyer since the start of the invasion. While western led efforts to reduce and ban Russian energy have led to an overall decrease in Russian fuel exports, Russia has made some $100 billion in fuel trade, according to the Finland-based Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air. High fuel prices paired with oil discounts to China to increase trade has resulted in significant revenue, however, it its unclear if China’s imports will be able to offset the hole created by European energy independence.