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China-Russia Trade Booms as War Forces Moscow to Look East

China-Russia trade reached $65.81 billion in the first five months of this year, up 28.9% over 2021, according to customs data released by China on Thursday

Chinese exports grew by almost 18% in June, well above forecasts and the highest rate in five months, but imports were flat.
Containers are seen at Yangshan port in Shanghai in October 2020. Daily container throughput in June 2022 at Shanghai port, which was severely hit by a long lockdown, was back to at least 95% of the same level in 2021, according to official data. Photo: Reuters.


Trade between China and Russia has accelerated since Moscow shifted its focus to Asia after it was hit with sanctions imposed by the West following its invasion of Ukraine.

Bilateral trade reached $65.81 billion in the first five months of this year, up 28.9% over 2021, according to customs data released by China on Thursday, the Global Times said, which noted that both sides were seeking to expand cooperation in “the spirit of mutual benefit.”

Imports from Russia grew 46.5% over the same period from the previous year, although export growth was more subdued, just 7.2% from January to May, it said.

Russia was China’s top provider of energy imports in 2021, which totalled $50 billion in 2021, and made up nearly two-thirds of bilateral imports, while Chinese cars, auto parts and mobile phones have been popular in Russia, the report said, citing an academic from Shanghai University of Political Science and Law said.

“Trade has been expanding from energy and raw materials imports to other food and agricultural productions like grain, soybeans, wheat, and dairy items,” Li Xin, director of the university’s Institute for Eurasian Studies, was quoted as saying.


Trade May Exceed $150 Billion

“Li predicted that China-Russia trade will maintain robust growth this year and could surge above $150 billion. In 2021, bilateral trade stood at $146.87 billion,’ the report said, noting that Russia’s “turn to the East” began a decade ago but sped up this year.

But there have been negative economic impacts as well from the war in Ukraine. Many Chinese producers of machinery and electrical equipment have seen their exports plunge, as the “war has killed orders”, according to a report by the South China Morning Post, which said Chinese companies were “wary of running afoul of Western sanctions”.

The current trend suggests China and Russia will achieve their goal of reaching $200 billion in trade by 2024.


• Jim Pollard






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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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