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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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China Is Winning Big As Russia Pivots To Asia

  • China is taking advantage of cheap Russian oil and coal.
  • Shunned by the West, Russia is looking to Asia to offload coal and oil at steep discounts.
  • China’s industrial power is being fueled by U.S. adversaries in Russia and Iran, Hudson Institute’s Duesterberg notes.

China is the main beneficiary of the biggest change in energy trade flows in recent memory as Russia pivots to Asia to sell the oil and coal banned in the West and looks to build another major natural gas pipeline to China.  Beijing is not only a willing energy trade partner for Russia, soaking up hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil per day unwanted in the West. 

China is also paying for Russian energy at growing discounts to international benchmarks, which makes its government-managed industry even more competitive than that of the U.S. and its allies, Thomas J. Duesterberg, Senior Fellow at U.S.-based think tank Hudson Institute, writes in Forbes.

“The United States could help its European and Pacific Rim allies, neutralize the growing Chinese opportunity in energy and energy-intensive industries, and contribute to the beleaguered effort of Ukraine to defeat Russian aggression if it treated its oil and gas production industry as part of its modern-day “Arsenal of Democracy” rather than as a pariah that should be slowly phased out,” Duesterberg says.  

But the Biden Administration is intent on keeping its climate goals and is blaming the oil industry for all the sins—from not enough gasoline to bring fuel prices down, to price gouging and profiteering from triple-digit crude oil prices. 

In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, industries in the West are grappling with soaring energy, input, raw material, and equipment costs. The EU may be on the brink of a recession later this year with its gas supply from Russia slashed and the possibility of rationing for some industries in a few months’ time. Recession in the U.S. is also a distinct possibility after the Fed aggressively hikes key interest rates to tame the highest inflation in four decades. 

Meanwhile, China is enjoying growing flows of crude and coal at cheaper than benchmark prices. Although China still has ups and downs in its economic growth due to the ‘zero COVID’ policy with sudden lockdowns, it is boosting its global position further because of the cheap commodities from Russia it has been importing in recent months.  

Related: Suncor Reveals Detailed Plan To Increase Oil Production While Reducing Emissions

China’s industrial power is being fueled by U.S. adversaries in Russia and Iran, Hudson Institute’s Duesterberg notes. 

China, which has never followed U.S. sanctions and keeps importing oil from Iran, has now increased imports of crude from Russia to records. China likely imported another 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of discounted Russian crude oil in June after bringing in around the same record amount in May. This kept Russia as the top Chinese oil supplier ahead of Saudi Arabia for a second consecutive month, according to tanker tracking firms Refinitiv, Vortexa, and Kpler cited by Reuters. 

A Hudson Institute analysis of Chinese customs data and the reported value of its imports showed that China paid for Russian oil 9% below Brent prices in January. The discount widened to 18.2% below Brent prices in May, when China imported a record 2 million bpd of Russia crude. Beijing also imports the typical high volumes of coal from Russia, as higher purchases from China, India, and Turkey have offset in recent months dwindling Russian coal sales to Europe ahead of the EU ban on coal imports starting in August. 

In natural gas, however, it will take years for China to materially boost pipeline imports from Russia because of a current lack of infrastructure. Russia is already sending natural gas via pipeline to China through the Power of Siberia pipeline, with plans for another major gas pipeline, but this will take years to complete and commission. Analysts warn that Russia—having no other choice—could become too dependent on China for energy trade, especially for its gas sales.   

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Mamdouh Salameh on July 11 2022 said:
    It is worth mentioning that Russia’s pivot toward China and the Asia-Pacific region started in earnest after the United States and the EU countries imposed sanctions against it in the aftermath of its annexation of the Crimea in 2014. President Putin’s objectives were to neutralize Western sanctions and to shift the flow of Russian energy exports from the EU to the bigger energy markets namely China and the Asia-Pacific region. How farsighted he has been proven given the current slew of Western sanctions following the Ukraine conflict.

    China has emerged as Russia’s largest crude oil importer with imports in May and June exceeding 2.0 million barrels a day (mbd). In a few years it will overtake the EU to become Russia’s largest gas export destination once the second major gas pipeline to China other than the Spirit of Siberia is completed. China is also the largest importer of Russian coal.

    China is the main beneficiary of Russia’s pivot to Asia. Moreover, China’s economy and industry in particular are becoming far more competitive than the United States’ and the EU’s because they are saving a lot in their energy bills. In a nutshell, China’s industrial power is being fuelled by Russia’s discounted energy supplies.

    As a result, China’s economy is projected to grow by an estimated 5.5% in 2022 with a very low inflation compared to the United States’ and the EU’s who are already facing inflation estimated at 9%-10% and more than 7% respectively and heading toward a harsh recession.

    China is also benefiting geopolitically from the Ukraine conflict. China’s tacit support of Russia in Ukraine and its ability to help Russia withstand Western sanctions will eventually get a quid pro quo from Russia when the time comes for China to restore Taiwan to the Mainland.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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