China’s spending on Russian energy climbs to record $8.3 billion

Coal ship with cranes in Novorossiysk, Russia port.

China’s spending on Russian energy products hit a record $8.3 billion last month, as the world’s top importer continues to expand its reliance on Moscow for overseas supplies of crude, oil products, gas and coal.

The haul for August was 68% higher than a year ago and included a record amount of coal, according to Chinese customs figures on Tuesday. It brings the total over the six months since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to nearly $44 billion, an increase of 74%.

Although import values have been inflated by the global spike in energy prices caused by the war, China is still taking more volumes, sometimes at discounted rates, from its strategic ally. Russia for its part needs to find a home for exports that are being shunned by much of the rest of the world as punishment for the invasion.

China’s increased spending also comes despite generally weaker energy imports this year as demand is crimped by a slowing economy and the government’s Covid Zero policy.

Russian oil exports to China rose to 8.34 million tons last month, from 7.15 million tons in July and 6.53 million a year ago, although it was edged out as the top supplier by Saudi Arabia for the first time since April. Russia is likely to ship more crude and products to destinations including China in the coming months as Europe tightens sanctions to step up its response to the invasion.

Imports of Russian coal hit a new high of 8.5 million tons, up 57% on the year, with coking coal for the steel industry totaling 1.9 million tons. Purchases of liquefied natural gas climbed to 671,000 tons, the highest level since 2020 and 37% more 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.

(By Ailing Tan)

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