China is propping up Russia’s war machine in Ukraine by offering Moscow an economic “lifeline.”
As the illegal invasion of the Eastern European democracy drags on into a second year, Beijing is playing a crucial role in keeping Russian President Vladimir Putin in power.
Data released by Chinese customs revealed that crude oil imports from Russia rocketed by 45% to US$50.6 billion between March and December last year compared to the same period in 2021.
“China has supported Russia’s war economically in the sense that it has ramped up trade with Russia, which has weakened Western efforts to cripple Moscow’s military machine,” Neil Thomas, a senior analyst for China and Northeast Asia at the Eurasia Group, said.
“[President] Xi Jinping wants to deepen China’s relationship with an increasingly isolated Russia,” Thomas, of the political risk consultancy, told the CNN media group.
Behind the numbers:
- China has cashed in on rock-bottom prices for energy commodities after the United States and its democratic allies wheeled out tough sanctions on Putin’s regime.
- Apart from oil, coal imports from Russia surged 54% to $10 billion.
- Natural gas sales jumped an incredible 155% to $9.6 billion.
- In turn, this has eased inflationary pressure and boosted Chinese exports.
Delve deeper: “Trade between China and Russia boomed last year, providing a lifeline to Russia’s beleaguered economy and showing the limits of Western sanctions according to a study by a Washington-based think tank,” The Wall Street Journal reported last month.
Between the lines: The Free Russia Foundation showed that “China’s increased purchases of Russian exports, driven by energy sales, more than offset the declines from major Western trading partners, including the US, the United Kingdom, and some European Union countries,” the WSJ said.
Big picture: China has a “no limits” relationship with Moscow with Chairman Xi the CEO of Autocrats Inc. “Best friend” Putin is eyed as a junior partner in Beijing but useful for bogging down the US and Europe’s democracies in aiding Ukraine.
China Factor comment: On Friday, a 12-point white paper from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was released on the Ukraine conflict without even mentioning Russia’s illegal invasion. Apart from concerns that Putin might go nuclear, the document was not worth the memory storage on an obsolete Nokia pocket phone.