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Russia surpasses Saudi Arabia as China’s top oil supplier

Energy-related cooperation between Saudi Arabia and China remains strong, but Russia and Saudi Arabia will continue to compete for the Chinese oil market in the near future.
 An oil tanker unloads imported crude oil at Qingdao port in China's eastern Shandong province on May 9, 2022. - China OUT (Photo by AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Russia surpassed Saudi Arabia as China’s top oil supplier during the first two months of the year, Reuters reported on Monday. 

Russia supplied 15.68 million tons of oil to China in January and February, equivalent to 1.94 million barrels per day. This was an increase of 23.8% from the same period last year. Saudi Arabia supplied China with 13.92 million tons of oil in January and February, or 1.81 million barrels per day. This was a decrease of about 5%. Reuters reported, citing Chinese government data. 

Saudi Arabia was China’s top oil supplier in 2022, and Russia came second, according to the outlet.

This is not the first time Russia has surpassed Saudi Arabia in oil exports to China. It also happened in May 2022 and January 2020, according to a graph from Bloomberg, which also reported that Russia overtook Saudi Arabia in January and February. 

Why it matters: India and China have been buying more Russian gas since the invasion of Ukraine last year changed global energy flows. Energy cooperation between Saudi Arabia and China remains strong, however. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia last December. Saudi Aramco and China’s Shandong Energy Group signed a cooperation deal during the trip. 

Aramco also signed a cooperation deal with the Chinese energy giant Sinopec last August. In March of last year, Aramco and China finalized longstanding plans to build a major refinery in northeast China. 

Russia and Saudi Arabia will continue to compete for Chinese oil sales in the near future, according to some observers. China is the largest crude oil importer in the world, and demand is rising. Saudi Arabia has a guaranteed share of the Chinese market because it has long-term contracts there, analyst Tsvetana Paraskova wrote for in February. 

Know more: Xi visited Russia on Tuesday and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They discussed cooperation on energy matters, according to China’s state-run news outlet CGTN. 

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