By Irina Slav of OilPrice.com
Russia became China’s largest oil supplier last year, selling it a record 107.02 million tons of crude, according to Chinese customs data, as cited by Reuters.
The total amount equaled a daily import rate of 2.14 million barrels, far ahead of Saudi Arabia, whose oil exports to China slipped to a daily average of some 1.7 million barrels last year, the data also showed. In June 2023, Russian exports to China hit an all-time high of 2.57 million barrels daily.
The Western sanctions on Russian crude were instrumental in this development. The sanctions—in the form of a price cap on Russian oil shipments abroad—prompted previous buyers to shun Russian oil but China was only too happy to take more in, as was India. The price discount that the sanctions caused was a big reason for that, even though it narrowed with time, as Russian oil prices moved in sync with global prices.
The same developments turned China into Russia’s largest oil customer last year.
Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said earlier this month that half of Russia’s crude oil exports went to China, which made it the biggest buyer of Russian oil.
“The main partners in the current situation are China, whose share has grown to approximately 45-50%, and, of course, India,” Novak said, as quoted by VOA News.
“Earlier, there basically were no supplies to India; in two years, the total share of supplies to India has come to 40%.”
India was the other country that saw Russia turn into its largest oil supplier last year, while the share of Europe in Russian oil imports dropped from around 45% to about 4-5% as the European Union imposed an embargo on Russian oil and petroleum product purchases in December 2022 and February 2023.
Together, China and India took in some 90% of Russia’s oil exports in 2023.