Chinese imports of Russian oil last month hit their highest level since Moscow’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Beijing’s customs data showed Tuesday.
China is Russia’s largest economic partner, with trade between them reaching a record $190 billion last year, according to Chinese customs data.
And in May, China imported 9.71 million tonnes of oil from Russia, detailed customs data showed, up from 5.4 million tonnes in February 2022 and 6.3 million the following month.
The figures show that imports of Russian crude by China since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine have almost doubled.
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.
Trade between the two countries last month was worth $20.5 billion, data from Beijing showed, with Chinese imports from Russia worth $11.3 billion.
During a summit in March, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian leader 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 percent this year, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said last month.
Beijing says it is a neutral party in the Ukraine war, but has been criticised by Western countries for refusing to condemn Moscow and for its close strategic partnership with Russia.
‘A new era’
Speaking on Russia’s 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 say China holds 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 invasion of 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 last year’s invasion of Ukraine.