China’s imports of Russian coal hit a five-year high in August, the latest sign of Beijing offering Moscow an economic lifeline as it faces international isolation over its war in Ukraine.
Shipments of Russian coal reached 8.54 million tonnes last month amid soaring energy demand in the world’s second-largest economy due to extremely hot weather, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Tuesday.
The trade, which was up 57 percent compared with the same period last year, marked the highest volume since authorities began collecting data in 2017.
China and Russia, which earlier this year declared their friendship to have “no limits”, have deepened their economic cooperation since Russian President Vladimir Putin in February ordered his forces to invade Ukraine.
China’s purchase of Russian imports rose 60 percent in August to $11.2bn on the back of surging demand for oil, coal and gas.
Chinese exporters have also ramped up shipments to Russia, with trade volume last month jumping 26 percent year-on-year to $8bn.
Bilateral trade between the sides reached $117.2bn in the first eight months of 2022, up more than 31 percent year on year.
At the same time, China is widely seen as hesitant to openly violate sanctions against Russia for fear of losing access to Western export markets and the US dollar-centric international financial system, with a number of Chinese state-owned financial institutions quietly distancing themselves from the country in recent months.
Beijing has declined to condemn the invasion and railed against Western-led sanctions against Moscow, although it has expressed its hope for negotiations and peace between the sides.
During Putin’s first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping since the invasion last week, the Russian leader expressed appreciation for the “balanced position of our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis”.
Xi, who met Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan, said China was willing to work with Russia to “play a leading role in demonstrating the responsibility of major powers” and to “instil stability and positive energy into a world in turmoil”.
Al Jazeera news