Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered sweeping US and European sanctions, but China has vowed to continue trading with Moscow as normal and maintains the country is its “most important strategic partner.”
China is Russia’s top trade partner, for both imports and exports. In the first two months of this year, China’s exports to Russia surged by more than 40% compared with 2021, and its imports from Russia increased by nearly 36%.
In 2021, Russia imported around $73 billion worth of products from China, which accounted for roughly a quarter of the value of Russia’s total imports, according to the Trade Map of the International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. Meanwhile, Russia exported around $68 billion worth of products to China last year, or around 14% of Russia’s total exports during the period, according to ITC.
Russia is China’s major supplier of resources including petroleum products and wood. Meanwhile, China is the major supplier of electrical and electronic equipment for Russia, led by mobile phones and other communication equipment.
Cars are also a major category of Russia’s imports from China. Last year, Russia was the third largest destination for exports of Chinese automobiles, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Since European carmakers including Volkswagen and BMW have halted their local production in Russia following the sanctions against the country, Chinese players like Geely and Chery could have “the chance of the century” to grow their market share in Russia, according to Chinese automobile analysts.
Chinese companies overall controlled around 41% of Russia’s smartphone market share last year, according to Counterpoint research. Xiaomi, Huawei, and Lenovo are among the major Chinese players in Russia’s consumer electronics market. Notably, China is also a major supplier of chips to Russia, accounting for over half of Russia’s imports of semiconductor devices including diodes, and 20% of its imports of chips in 2020.
Besides China, Germany is also a major supplier of goods to Russia, followed by the US and Belarus, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database. Among the major imports from Germany to Russia are plant or laboratory equipment, valves, and transmission shafts, according to ITC.