Chinese President Xi Jinping disappointed the Russian side by refusing to commit itself to supporting a new large-scale project to supply gas from Russia to China. We are talking about the Power of Siberia 2 project, a pipeline that should pass through the territory of Mongolia to China and at least partially compensate Moscow for the loss of the European market. During a meeting with Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping refused to commit himself to increase Russian gas imports, Bloomberg reports .
According to the publication, Beijing does not want to repeat the mistakes of the European Union and overly rely on fuel from Russia. On the contrary, the Chinese authorities intend to diversify as widely as possible the supply of useful resources critical for the economy, despite the fact that this may be more expensive for the country. The agency notes that the asymmetry in bilateral relations was especially evident in the speeches of the two leaders following joint meetings.
Vladimir Putin announced that Russia intends to supply China with 98 billion cubic meters of gas per year through pipelines and at least 100 million tons of liquefied natural gas. However, Putin's desires diverged from the expectations of the Chinese leader, who expressed no confidence that these plans would be realized. The head of the Russian bureau of the Financial Times, Max Seddon, also pointed out this.
“This is a buyer's market for China. If Russia does not make an extremely pleasant offer, China can wait as long as it wants. Additional gas from Russia is not required, especially after the economic downturn caused by the lockdown,” Butt Ogerel, senior analyst at the Energy Policy Research Foundation, explains China’s logic.
Putin's declared export volumes are about 6 times higher than what Russia supplies to China at the moment. However, even such an increase in supplies does not compensate Russia for the loss of the European market. Moreover, Moscow does not disclose the prices at which it supplies gas to China, but they are likely to be much lower than they could be in the EU. Regarding the “Power of Siberia 2”, the two leaders also did not have a common position. Vladimir Putin claims that “almost everything has already been agreed” on the project, but Xi Jinping did not confirm this information in his speech.
"Xi's plan is to strike a balance: China wants Russia to survive but doesn't want to be seen as fully supporting Russia," said Dongshu Liu, an associate professor of Chinese politics at the City University of Hong Kong.
Experts note that Xi Jinping used his visit to Russia to once again show his readiness to resist the United States, but Beijing refused all kinds of binding agreements with Moscow. The speeches of the two leaders were replete with already traditional attacks on Western countries, but there was no talk of a close rapprochement between the two states. China deliberately keeps Russia at a distance to minimize the risks to its economy, which could fall under Western restrictions if cooperation is too close.
Press Secretary of the President of Russia Dmitry Peskov denies that the Chinese side refused to increase gas supplies, and he called the information of Bloomberg agency "low-skilled stuffing." True, Peskov did not provide any evidence that Beijing agreed to support the project and really intends to increase the volume of Russian gas imports. It follows from his words that the parties continue to discuss the project, and only Mongolia is fully prepared to support it.
The asymmetry in relations between Russia and China turns Moscow into a raw materials appendage of Beijing and makes Russia highly dependent on China. Sources close to the Russian establishment also spoke about these trends earlier. The scale of such tendencies start to frighten some officials.