China is considered a potentially important buyer for Russian gas exports. But a pipeline to the east, which is important for Putin, is still a mystery.
Beijing/Moscow – The West continues to impose new sanctions in the Ukraine war. But Russia and China have repeatedly emphasized their economic and political partnership in recent months. But Beijing is also sending alarming signals for Vladimir Putin.
This has recently become visible again and again in a construction project that has been talked about for a good decade: the "Power of Siberia 2" pipeline, which is to lead via Siberia and Mongolia to China. This was probably also on the agenda last week during a visit by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to Beijing. But because China still does not seem to consider the project ready to be decided, the result of the meeting was probably somewhat sobering for Russia. This was recently reported by the Financial Times.
China's President Xi is emphatically committed to Russia. But how much is tactics? © Pavel Byrkin/AFP
Russia under pressure: Loss of European markets difficult to compensate for
If it were up to the plans of Russia and the state-owned gas export company Gazprom, several new pipelines would soon be pumping Russian gas eastwards. The largest of the planned new plants is the "Power of Siberia 2", reports the news channel ntv. This is particularly important because it would connect China with oil fields that mainly supplied gas to Europe before the Ukraine war.
Many direct connections to the east start at gas fields that have never worked for Europe – and can thus only indirectly replace the collapsed demand of European countries. Russia can only partially cover them through opaque trade routes and continuing trade links with individual EU states. But while Vladimir Putin has raised the pipeline again and again, Xi Jinping's Chinese government has remained silent.
Russia and China: experts express forecasts
According to the Financial Times, this has now been repeated during Mishustin's visit. Once again, he could not bring a clear yes to the new gas link between China and Russia. Experts interpret the reluctance as a demonstration of China's trading position. Alicja Bachulska, a China expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, told the Financial Times that China's hesitation could be aimed at reducing China's contribution to construction costs. Gergely Molnar of the International Energy Agency, a research platform specializing in energy, even goes so far as to predict that China will continue to rely on a large number of gas suppliers and does not plan to become dependent in any way.
Meanwhile, China and Russia have used Mishustin's state visit to sign bilateral agreements in other areas. This was reported by the British Guardian. The sectors in which the two countries have decided on new cooperation in the future include general trade relations, agricultural exports and cooperation on sports issues. (saka)