China imports record volumes of Russian oil in first half of 2023
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China is importing record volumes of oil despite a weak economy as it takes advantage of cheap Russian crude to build stockpiles and export refined products.
The rise in oil imports to record levels this year comes against the backdrop of a faltering recovery in the world’s second-largest economy.
It shows how sanctions on Russia are reshaping global oil markets, with China getting a double benefit of cheap crude for itself and the opportunity to boost exports.
For the first half of 2023, China imported 11.4mn barrels per day of crude oil, up 11.7 per cent year on year and up 15.3 per cent compared with pre-Covid levels, according to Financial Times calculations based on customs data.
“The short answer is crude stocks have been building in China,” said Mukesh Sahdev, head of oil trading at Rystad Energy, a research group. “They’re importing for the future . . . and in advance of a potential stimulus. People are all talking about a second-half story.”
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