The Russian-Chinese oil partnership is shaping to be the most important of such relationships in the world
It only makes sense. We've previously reported that Russia has displaced Saudi Arabia as China's top supplier of oil. But the International Energy Agency has now said that at the end of 2015 China likewise overtook Germany as Russia's top consumer.
"Shipping data suggest that China is importing more and more ESPO crude [East Siberian Pacific Ocean blend] and at the end of 2015 overtook Germany to become Russia’s biggest customer," the IEA said in its Oil Market Report for March released on Friday.
Russia is now the top supplier of oil to the top importer of oil. This is still not quite the biggest energy partnership in the world – the flow of oil from Canada to US is larger – but it's certainly the most geopolitically significant.
The Canadian-American relations would be much the same with or without the massive oil trade, but Russia and China becoming more commercialy important to each other will help to reinforce the many political ties (SCO, BRICS) Beijing and Moscow have been weaving so far.
In fact the growing commercial relationship (particularly in oil and arms) is to a very large extent the consequence of the greater political understanding between the two since 2014 and the Western turn against Russia. The oil relationship specifically is taking off in the wake of a deal whereby Russia is now accepting payment directly in Chinese renminbi.
This gives Beijing an added ease of mind and is not problematic for Russia either since China is nowadays a massive factory and therefore the renmibi Russia earsn with oil sales can be easily spent on valued Chinese goods. In fact every year Russia imports more from Chine than it exports so there can be no fear of accumulating unwanted currency.