One month ago, we were surprised to read how, despite a suppressed appetite for energy amid its housing crash and economic downturn (for which “zero covid” has emerged as a convenient scapegoat for emperor Xi), China has been soaking up more Russian natural gas so far this year, while imports from most other sources declined.
In July, the SCMP reported that according to Chinese customs data, in the first six months of the year, China bought a total of 2.35 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) – valued at US$2.16 billion. The import volume increased by 28.7% year on year, with the value surging by 182%. It meant Russia has surpassed Indonesia and the United States to become China’s fourth-largest supplier of LNG so far this year!
This, of course, is not to be confused with pipeline gas, where Russian producer Gazprom recently announced that its daily supplies to China via the Power of Siberia pipeline had reached a new all-time high (Russia is China’s second-largest pipeline natural gas supplier after Turkmenistan), and earlier revealed that the supply of Russian pipeline gas to China had increased by 63.4% in the first half of 2022.
What was behind this bizarre surge in Russian LNG imports, analysts speculated? After all, while China imports over half of the natural gas it consumes, with around two-thirds in the form of LNG, demand this year had fallen sharply amid economic headwinds and widespread shutdowns. In other words, why the surge in Russian LNG when i) domestic demand is just not there and ii) at the expense of everyone else?