Trade between Russia and China is expected to hit a new record level of $200 billion this year, according to Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin during his trip to China, as Moscow faces growing isolation from the West.
Russia has been hit by unprecedented Western sanctions since it unleashed a devastating war against Ukraine and has been shut out of much of the global economy.
But China, which has declared “no limits” to its friendship with its northern neighbor, has thrown the Kremlin an economic lifeline, tempering the impact of its banishment from the global financial system.
Last year, bilateral trade jumped nearly 30% to a record $190 billion, mainly boosted by China buying Russian energy. This year, their trade continued to surge, up 41% in the first four months, according to Chinese customs figures.
“I believe that this year we will be able to achieve the goals set by the two countries’ leaders and bring the total trade to $200 billion,” Mishustin said during a speech at the China-Russia business forum in Shanghai on Tuesday, according to China’s state-run Global Times.
That will be one year ahead of the schedule set by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2019.
Energy cooperation with China remains Russia’s “absolute priority,” Mishustin said.
On Wednesday, China’s Premier Li Qiang met with Mishustin in Beijing, and said the country was willing to work with Russia to promote their pragmatic cooperation in various fields and take it to a “new level,” according to Reuters.
Mishustin, meanwhile, said the two governments are making a “coordinate effort” to implement the agreements reached between Xi and Putin in their March meeting to a “supreme level,” according to Russian state news agency TASS.
The premier also emphasized its relations are at an “unprecedentedly high level” and “mutual respect to each other’s interests,” TASS reported.
Mishustin is expected to also meet with Xi on Wednesday.
Russia has surpassed Saudi Arabia to become China’s largest crude oil supplier since February, according to most statistics from China’s customs authority.
The two countries have also planned to build the Power-of-Siberia 2 pipeline to deliver more Russian gas to China via Mongolia. The project is not yet finalized. But Putin said in March that the three countries had completed all agreements on finishing the pipeline, and that Russia will deliver at least 98 billion cubic meters of gas to China by 2030.
Alexander Novak, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, said Russia’s energy supply to China could increase about 40% this year, the Global Times reported.
The $200 billion figure also means China will buy more agricultural products from Russia, and Chinese companies will produce more cars locally in the country, the paper cited other Russian officials at the forum as saying.
The two countries will enhance financial cooperation as well, Mishustin said.
Andrey Kostin, CEO of Russia’s state bank VTB, said at the forum that Russia’s central bank has been stockpiling the yuan and has provided the yuan and rubles for more than 70% of the two countries’ trade.