China, which on one hand has shown a wariness to openly flout sanctions against Russia that were imposed over its invasion of Ukraine, appears poised to strike a major energy deal with Russia, according to a new report.
China has remained aloof from nations condemning Russia for its invasion but has avoided overt actions that could antagonize the United States in areas such as shipping technology to Russia, according to The Washington Post.
Now, as Russia’s economy is feeling the impact from sanctions that have reduced the number of nations willing to buy oil from them, China is stepping up as Russia’s best customer, according to Bloomberg.
The Bloomberg report is attributed to “people with knowledge of the plan” and aligns with concerns expressed early in the war that a mass sanctions campaign could lead to closer ties between Russia and China.
The new deal reported by Bloomberg would send Russian crude oil to China to replenish China’s strategic crude oil stockpiles.
The scope of the purchase and other specifics were unclear.
China, along with India, has been a major customer for Russian oil as other buyers stepped away to avoid being impacted by sanctions.
China already buys about 25 percent of Russia’s oil, according to Li Wei, an associate professor with Renmin University’s school of international studies.
“As long as China does not participate in the sanctions, one-quarter of Russia’s crude oil export revenue is safe,” Li said, according to the South China Morning Post.
Li said China will steer its own course concerning Russia.
“It is clear that China is not obliged to cooperate with the West on the issue of oil and gas imports, either in terms of economic or strategic interests,” Li said.
“What bothers me is even though the Europeans say they’re going to stop buying Russian oil since the conflict started, they bought over $80 billion worth of Russian oil. Today, Russia is still transiting 630,000 barrels of oil a day in the Black Sea to add another 35 million, and obviously, they’re blocking the export of Ukrainian grain, the fifth-largest exporter of grain,” he said.
“We ought to seriously look at blocking the oil that would go to China and basically not allow them to beef up their reserves,” he continued.
The concept is to cap the price at which countries can buy Russian oil, so Russia does not gain more revenue from the global price increase that has taken place.
The Biden team is looking at “what can be done in the more immediate term to reduce the revenues that the Kremlin is generating from selling oil, and make sure countries outside the sanctions coalition, like China and India, don’t undercut the sanctions by just buying more oil,” according to Edward Fishman, a former State Department official.
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