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When did we last tee off against Russia & China in a proxy war? Wait I've got this one!

Me, me, me! Teech, I've got this one. It's Vietnam right? I know it's a trick question.

That's right, last time we got our ass handed to us the Chinese supplied troops and Russia supplied the weaponry. It's also fun to face off against the commy version of Starsky and Hutch.

Booming Trade With China Helps Boost Russia’s War Effort

Chinese exports to its neighbor have risen sharply, as Beijing sends everything from microchips to trench-digging excavators

By Austin Ramzy in Hong Kong and Jason Douglas in Singapore, WSJ

Updated Aug. 21, 2023 12:31 pm ET

China is playing an increasingly important role in propping up Russia’s economy and helping boost its war effort, with recent trade data showing Beijing providing a range of goods, including some with potential military applications such as microchips and trench-digging excavators.

China has become the principal source of many of the goods and components Russia’s sanctions-hit economy needs, while also giving Moscow a buyer for its oil and gas. The growing economic relationship is a central piece of the efforts by the two countries to unite against what their leaders describe as Western efforts to contain them.

China’s total trade with Russia in the first seven months of this year jumped 36% from the same period a year earlier, to $134 billion, putting Moscow just behind Australia and Taiwan on the list of China’s biggest trading partners, according to trade data released last week. A breakdown of the data released Sunday showed that rising trade in energy, automobiles and electronics equipment has been driving the deepening economic ties.

China is now the world’s largest auto exporter with Russia becoming its biggest buyer this year. WSJ explains how Chinese car brands profited from Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions. Illustration: Kalvin Ng

China is now the source for between 45% and 50% of Russia’s imports, up from one quarter before its invasion of Ukraine, according to estimates from the Bank of Finland’s Institute for Emerging Economies, which specializes in research on the economies of China and Russia.

The relationship has benefited China too, particularly as its economy faces a host of challenges, including a decline in Western demand for many of its goods. Russia has notably helped China become the world’s largest vehicle exporter this year. The country is, however, still only a small, if growing, fraction of China’s overall global trade.

Over the first seven months of the year, Chinese exports to Russia soared 73% even as its overall exports tumbled 5%, highlighting how Russia has become one of the few markets for Chinese goods still showing growth amid the global increase in interest rates and geopolitical tensions.

The surge in trade with Russia has been propelled by sanctions that have strangled Russia’s access to a multitude of Western-made goods. Chinese companies have stepped into the breach with products of their own, including cars, electronics, food, tobacco, metals, smartphones and other consumer goods.

Some of the increasing trade between the two countries appears to be directly connected to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a trip to Beijing in June that his counterparts told him that China wouldn’t provide weapons to Russia and affirmed that the U.S. hadn’t seen evidence it had. But Blinken raised concerns about China providing other goods that help Russia’s invasion, including dual-use technologies with both civilian and military uses.

Chinese companies have supplied computer chips, jet-fighter parts and navigation and jamming technology to Russia, The Wall Street Journal has reported. A report last month from the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence said China was helping Russia evade sanctions and acquire technology with military applications, while becoming an “even more critical economic partner for Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.”

One year ago, as it became increasingly clear that Putin would be unable to achieve the sort of swift victory some had predicted, Russian imports of Chinese earth-moving equipment began to rise sharply. China sold Russia nearly twice as many front-end shovel loaders and more than three times as many excavators in the first seven months of 2023 as it did over the same period a year prior.

The machines are generally used in construction, and the sharp increase suggests Russia put some of them to use building barriers to resist Ukrainian counterattacks, said Joseph Webster, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who has analyzed the surge in such exports.

“Chinese companies have enabled the construction of Russian fortifications in Ukraine,” said Webster, referring to the data on excavators and front-end shovel loaders.

Webster, who also publishes the China-Russia Report newsletter, points to official data showing a notable increase in Chinese exports of excavators to Russia in August and September last year.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, shown meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in June, said the U.S. hasn’t seen evidence of China providing weapons to Russia. PHOTO: GREG BAKER/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

“That’s not a coincidence,” he said. “That’s when Russian forces really started to entrench themselves, when they started retreating.”

Valery Limarenko, governor of the Russian region of Sakhalin, delivered new Chinese-made excavators to troops in the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine on Russia’s national day in June, according to a video posted on his official Telegram account. The excavators, which were manufactured by Lonking, a Chinese construction equipment maker, were intended for “operational earthworks,” the account said. Lonking didn’t reply to a request for comment.

Chinese imports from Russia have also grown, albeit less than China’s exports to its neighbor and geopolitical partner. Chinese imports from Russia rose 17% over the first seven months of the year compared with the same period in 2022, to $71.1 billion. That accounted for about 4.8% of China’s total imports this year, up only modestly from a 3% share on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

China has ramped up its imports of Russian commodities, providing a stream of foreign earnings for Russia’s battered economy. China’s imports of Russian anthracite coal rose 55% year over year in the first seven months of 2023, to $2 billion. Imports of crude oil declined in dollar terms thanks to a slide in the price of the commodity, to around $32 billion, but in volume terms were up in year-over-year terms, Chinese customs data show.

For China, Russia provides a ready market for its exports as demand for goods elsewhere is tumbling. The benefit is clearest with autos, where Russian demand for Chinese-made cars has helped push China ahead of Japan as the world’s top vehicle exporter.

“I’m pretty sure that without this huge surge of auto exports to Russia, China wouldn’t be emerging as the world’s largest auto exporter,” says Duncan Wrigley, chief China economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics in London.

Chinese exports to Russia of motor vehicles have skyrocketed since shipments from Europe all but stopped early last year. China exported more than 341,000 motor vehicles to Russia in the first six months of the year, almost six times the number of vehicles shipped in the first half of 2022, according to customs figures compiled by data provider CEIC. Over this same period, Russia was the destination for 11.4% of all Chinese vehicle exports, up sharply from 3.7% in the first half of 2022.

As Western automakers retreat from the Russian market, Chinese-made cars and SUVs are now bestsellers.

Russia became the top importer of Chinese vehicles this year. As of June, six of the top 10 car brands in Russia were Chinese, compared with none three years ago, according to Autostat, a Moscow-based agency that analyzes the auto industry.

Write to Austin Ramzy at and Jason Douglas at

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