China-Russia trade: supercharged energy deals still deemed crucial as West presses Beijing on Ukraine

China-Russia trade: supercharged energy deals still deemed crucial as West presses Beijing on Ukraine

Beijing has vowed that “proactive measures” will be taken with Moscow to consolidate bilateral trade in traditional areas such as energy, minerals and grains, despite the looming threat of sanctions from Brussels and Washington over the Ukraine war.

The world’s second-largest economy continues to buy much-needed crude oil and natural gas from its northern neighbour to shore up energy security, but the status of the Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline – considered a signature project in their “no-limits” strategic partnership – still seems to be up in the air.

Chinese authorities have been facing mounting pressure over relations with Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has triggered blanket sanctions from the European Union and United States.

After meeting President Xi Jinping at Elysee Palace on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed Beijing’s commitments to “refrain from selling any weapons or aid” to Russia and to “strictly control” sales of products and technologies that could be used for both civilian and military purposes.



China says ‘no limits’ in cooperation with Russia

China says ‘no limits’ in cooperation with Russia

Meanwhile, the commerce ministry’s director of Eurasian affairs, Liu Xuesong, said on Monday that China would “work along with Russia” to tap new sectors for bilateral trade, including in services, the digital economy, and green industry and low-carbonisation development.

A bilateral trade expo will be held from May 16-21 in the northeastern city of Harbin, with a focus on industrials and manufacturing, agriculture, and logistics collaborations.

Both countries “have a solid development on China-Russia crude oil pipelines, the Power of Siberia, the Blagoveshchensk-Heihe Bridge and the Tongjiang-Nizhneleninskoye railway bridge”, Liu said at a press conference.

Their bilateral trade grew by 5.2 per cent to US$56.68 billion in the first quarter of this year, driven by robust cooperation on trade in services and cross-border e-commerce.

“Even if Beijing curtails dual-use exports to avoid further sanctions, its strategic interest in Russia remaining a stable partner will persist,” Nathaniel Sher, a senior research analyst at Carnegie China, wrote in an article posted to the think tank’s website on May 6.

Jiang Jiang, a researcher at the Xinhua Institute think tank, said that China “has the right to independently develop diplomatic and trade relations” with other countries that are not subject to interference by a third party.

“Both China and Europe support a political solution to the Ukraine crisis,” he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit China this month, and it could mark an important occasion to determine how much progress has been made in their bilateral ties, particularly in terms of new deals or commitments.

In December, Chinese ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui told Russian media that the Power of Siberia 2 was crucial for deepening energy cooperation between China and Russia.

The two sides are believed to still be engaged in talks over the project, which could bring as much as 50 billion cubic metres of gas to China annually.

“Both sides were actively discussing a range of issues, including project technology, business, and cooperation models,” Jiang added.

We aim to strengthen our interactions in all aspects under the framework of promoting Chinese and Russian cultures
Sun Weidong, vice-foreign minister

While Beijing and Moscow are still negotiating specific details of the pipeline, Kazakhstan’s envoy to Russia, Dauren Abayev, said at the weekend that Russia was planning to send about 35 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year to China via Kazakhstan, and that his country wanted “to make the most” of transit potentials.

Last year, Kazakhstan and Russia set up the route for a future gas pipeline to support shipments between the two countries and to China.

“This year, China and Russia mark their 75th year of diplomatic relations,” China’s vice-foreign minister, Sun Weidong, told Russian ambassador to China Igor Morgulov on Monday. “We aim to strengthen our interactions in all aspects under the framework of promoting Chinese and Russian cultures.”

While Xi is on his trip to France, Serbia and Hungary, the Europeans have said they are relying on China to use its influence to end the Ukraine war.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in late April that he pressed China over its support for Russia’s military-industrial base while meeting with Xi and foreign minister Wang Yi in Beijing.



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