As Western countries imposed sanctions on Russia following the assault on Ukraine, Russia has increasingly turned towards China, resulting in an unequal relationship between the two countries.
Bilateral trade between the neighbors has reached a record $190 billion, with the proportion of Russian foreign trade carried out in yuan going from 0.5% to 16%.
This dependence on China has sparked concerns over the political leverage it could provide Beijing, as it gains another tool to influence Russia domestically.
Despite this, the Kremlin denies any disparity between the two countries, and President Vladimir Putin is preparing to host Chinese leader Xi Jinping next week, highlighting the robust ties between the two countries in the energy sector, which Western sanctions have heavily targeted.
Russia’s economic stability depends on China, with China and India now replacing the European Union as Russia’s most important export market for oil, accounting for two-thirds of Russia’s crude oil exports in Q4 2022.
While analysts note that Russia’s economic dependency on China is still in its early stages, it could develop into more significant political leverage.
As China emerges as Russia’s most important economic partner, there are concerns that it could undermine Russia’s sovereignty, making it subservient to Beijing’s interests.
Some experts argue that Russia must diversify its trade partnerships to avoid such risks.
The growing dependence on China also poses significant challenges for Russia’s foreign policy. It could lead to a strategic shift towards China and away from the West, potentially impacting Russia’s relations with other countries in the region.
As Russia seeks to chart its course in a rapidly changing global landscape, it will have to navigate the complex dynamics of its relationship with China, balancing its economic interests with its national security concerns.