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Russian coal imports by China reach 8.54 million tonnes in August as ties deepen

driven by short-term demand side factors, namely the summer heatwave and therefore increased demand for energy in China

China’s imports of Russian coal hit a five-year high in August, the latest sign of Chinese trade providing Moscow with 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.

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping
China’s imports of Russian coal hit a five-year high in August in the latest sign of deepening economic cooperation between Beijing and Moscow [Sergey Bobylev/Pool via Reuters]

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.

Carsten Holz, an expert on the Chinese economy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, cautioned against interpreting surging imports of Russian coal as a coordinated effort by Beijing to support Moscow.

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