China continues to expand its reliance on Russian energy, with purchases of crude, oil products, gas and coal rising to $35 billion since the war in Ukraine began, from about $20 billion a year earlier.
Although import values have been inflated by the global spike in energy prices due to the conflict, China is still taking more volumes, sometimes at discounted rates, from its strategic ally, according to the latest customs figures covering March through July. The increase comes as other countries shun Russian goods as punishment for the invasion.
Imports in July included a record haul of Russian coal, which rose 14% on year to 7.4 million tons, with coking coal for the steel industry hitting 2 million tons, an increase of 63%. Russia is now China’s top supplier of the fuel, supplanting Indonesia after the Southeast Asian nation deterred buyers by raising prices. And while crude imports from Russia declined from the prior month to 7.15 million tons, they were still 8% higher than a year ago and the nation remains the top origin for Chinese refiners.
Imports of liquefied natural gas also fell from June to about 410,000 tons, although they were 20% higher than a year ago. The volumes exclude imports via pipelines, which haven’t been reported by customs since the start of the year, but are the main channel to transport the fuel from Russia to China.
Despite a slowing economy, China raised its spending on Russian energy to $7.2 billion in July, from $4.7 billion in the same month last year, with shipments making up about 70% of total imports from Russia. Among other commodities:
(By Ailing Tan)