BEIJING – China increased petroleum imports from Russia in May, according to customs statistics released on Monday, assisting to offset losses caused by Western countries cutting back on Russian energy purchases due to the invasion of Ukraine.
As a result of the increase, Russia has surpassed Saudi Arabia as China’s top oil supplier, despite Western sanctions targeting Moscow’s energy exports.
Last month, the world’s second-largest economy purchased 8.42 million gallons of oil from Russia, up 55 percent year over year.
Instead of publicly condemning Moscow’s conflict, Beijing has extracted economic benefits from its vulnerable neighbor.
In May, it bought 7.82 million gallons of oil from Saudi Arabia.
According to Bloomberg News, China purchased 7.47 billion dollars of Russian energy goods last month, up to $1 billion from April.
The latest customs figures come 4 months into the conflict in Ukraine, with purchasers in the United States and Europe either avoiding or promising to reduce Russian energy imports in the coming months.
Asian trade, particularly in China and India, is helping to mitigate some of Russia’s losses.
According to statistics from research company Rystad Energy, India purchased 6 times more extra Russian oil from March to May compared to the corresponding time last year, while China’s purchases tripled.
“For the time being, it is purely economic that Indian and Chinese oil producers are buying additional Russian-origin heavy crude… as oil is cheap,” analyst Wei Cheong Ho said.
According to the latest global oil report from the International Energy Agency, India has surpassed Germany as the second-largest importer of Russian crude in the previous two months.
Since 2016, the Chinese have become Russia’s largest crude oil market.
‘There are no boundaries.’
Days before Russia invaded Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with his Russian counterparts Vladimir Putin in Beijing, where the two nations pledged a “no boundaries” bilateral partnership.
While demand in China is still low due to Covid limitations, there has been a modest improvement in the last month as towns relaxed regulations following the country’s biggest outbreak since the epidemic began.
According to government data, this has helped to alleviate supply chain issues and boost industrial production.
According to customs figures, China’s total shipments from Russia increased by 80% year on year to $10.3 billion in May.
Even while global imports of the fuel declined, Beijing increased its purchase decisions of Russian oil and natural gas by 54% to 397,000 tonnes.
By opposing Trade restrictions on Moscow and weaponry supplies to Kyiv, the Chinese have been criticized for acting as a political shield for Russia.
Goals that are shared
Beijing and Moscow, formerly fierce Cold War foes, have increased collaboration in current history as a counterweight to what they regard as US global domination.
They launched the first road bridge connecting the two nations earlier this month, joining the far eastern Russian region of Blagoveshchensk with the northern Chinese city of Heihe.
In a phone chat last week, Xi reminded Putin of China’s support for Russian “sovereignty and security.” In the face of “illegal” Western sanctions, the two sides agreed to increase economic cooperation, according to the Kremlin.