Russia is strengthening its ties with China through oil diplomacy, surpassing Saudi Arabia to become the country’s top crude oil supplier.
In November China imported 949,925 barrels of Russian crude oil per day (bpd) compared with 886,950 bpd of Saudi oil.
The increase in sales to China has seen Russia lift its production of crude oil to its highest levels since the Soviet Union collapsed.
Russia’s increase in supplying oil to China has been building steadily over the last two years, but it became really noticeable in May, when for the first time in history, Riyadh was outpaced by Moscow in the crude oil exports to Beijing stakes.
The increase has helped Russia to somewhat overcome crippling Western economic and trade sanctions imposed because of the country's involvement in the Ukraine. It has also increased ties between China and Russia, easily demonstrated by the two voting together on United Nations Security Council issues of geopolitical significance over the last year.
Both the Russian oil imports and its closer ties with China is of concern to Riyadh. Its oil exports to China, the world's second biggest oil consumer, have fallen and closer ties between Moscow and Beijing represent a threat to stability in the Arabian Peninsula, especially as Moscow is at odds with Saudi Arabia over the Syrian conflict.
Russia’s increasing oil supply to China is also seen as a thumbing its nose to the Saudis for increasing its supply of crude oil to Russia's eastern European markets when the U.S. lead trade embargos kicked in. It also means that if the U.S. hoped to bankrupt Russia through the embargo, the effort was a failure.
When asked recently when will Russia decrease oil production and supplying so much to China, Russian Deputy Energy Minister Kirill Molodtsov said, “I will tell you when Russian companies are for sure going to decrease production -- when oil costs $0."