MOSCOW - Russia has found itself in an unequal relationship with China since intensifying its pivot toward Beijing after the assault on Ukraine.
Since Western countries imposed sanctions on Moscow, bilateral trade between the two neighbours has reached a record US$190 billion (S$255 billion) and the proportion of Russian foreign trade carried out in yuan has gone from 0.5 per cent to 16 per cent.
“It’s absolutely critical for Russia to be close to China, because Russia doesn’t have many trade friends,” Elina Ribakova, deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance, told AFP.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is now preparing to host Chinese leader Xi Jinping next week. The two last met when Mr Putin visited Beijing three weeks before launching his campaign in Ukraine.
Ties between the two countries are particularly strong in the energy sector, which has been heavily targeted by Western sanctions.
“China and India have replaced the European Union as Russia’s most important export market” for oil, said a group of economists from the Institute of International Finance.
Along with Turkey, China and India accounted for two-thirds of Russia’s crude oil exports in the fourth quarter last year.
“Chinese companies took over the niches that were freed by Western companies that exited Russia,” said Sergey Tsyplakov, an expert at the Moscow Higher School of Economics.
That was a view shared by Anna Kireeva, a research fellow at the prestigious MGIMO University in Russia.
“It was necessary to find alternative sources of import as well, especially in machinery, electronics, various parts and components, automobiles and other vehicles,” Ms Kireeva told AFP.
She said, however, that most big Chinese companies that are well-integrated into Western markets opted to pause their activities in Russia for fear of potential sanctions.
Time will tell i...