Russia was the single largest crude oil supplier to China in January and February, overtaking Saudi Arabia which was the number-one supplier of oil to China last year, according to Chinese customs data cited by Reuters.
As China accelerated the buying of cheap Russian crude oil at discounts to international benchmarks, Chinese imports of crude from Russia jumped by 23.8% year over year to 1.94 million barrels per day (bpd) in January and February 2023, per the data reported by China’s General Administration of Customs.
China reports trade and economic data for January and February together to remove distortions around the fluctuating week-long Lunar New Year holiday.
In the first two months of this year, Russia beat Saudi Arabia to the top spot of Chinese crude oil suppliers as imports of Saudi crude fell by 4.7% to the equivalent of 1.72 million bpd, compared to 1.81 million bpd for the same period of 2022.
For the full-year 2022, Saudi Arabia was China’s top crude oil supplier – ahead of Russia – with shipments averaging 1.75 million bpd.
In recent months, China has been buying increased volumes of Russian crude as Moscow pivoted its sales to Asian markets following the Western embargoes and price caps on its crude oil and refined petroleum products.