Beijing’s customs data revealed Tuesday that Chinese imports of Russian oil in the previous month were at the highest since the Russian special military operation commenced in Ukraine in February 2022 as their last year trade stood at $190 billion.
China is Russia’s largest trading partner, as, in May, China imported 9.71 million tonnes of oil from Russia, the data showed. It was a rise from 5.4 million tonnes in February 2022 and 6.3 million the following month.
They are in line with trade figures released this month that showed China’s trade with Russia soaring to levels not seen since February 2022.
Bilateral trade between the two last month was worth $20.5 billion, showed data from the Chinese capital, with imports from Russia worth $11.3 billion.
During a summit in March, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to boost trade to $200 billion in 2023 as they hailed their “no limits” partnership.
“And Russian energy deliveries to China are set to grow by 40% this year,” Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said last month.
Beijing said it is a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict but has been criticised by Western countries for refusing to condemn Moscow and for its close strategic partnership with Russia.
While speaking about the Russian economy this month, President Putin admitted that the second quarter of last year had been “the most difficult” as the West punished his country with unprecedented sanctions.
Analysts noted that China held the upper hand in the relationship with Russia and that its sway is growing as Moscow’s international isolation deepens.
China and Russia have in recent years ramped up economic cooperation and diplomatic contacts, with their strategic partnership having only grown closer since the war in Ukraine.
In February, Beijing released a paper calling for a “political settlement” to the conflict, which Western countries said could enable Russia to hold much of the territory it has seized in Ukraine.
During their March summit in Moscow, Xi invited Putin to visit Beijing and the two leaders declared that ties were “entering a new era”.
And last month, the Chinese leader offered his “firm support” on Moscow’s “core interests” at a meeting with Moscow’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, during the highest-level visit by a Russian official to China since the Ukraine war.