Sino-Russian Energy Relations: An Uncertain Courtship

Erica S. Downs
Erica S. Downs Former Brookings Expert

August 23, 2010


China and Russia appear to be natural energy partners.  China, the world’s second largest oil consumer and importer and a growing consumer and importer of natural gas is seeking “security of supply” and the diversification of its energy imports away from the Persian Gulf region and the sea-lines of communication.  Russia, the world’s largest producer and exporter of oil and the world’s second largest producer and top exporter of natural gas, is pursuing “security of demand” and the diversification of its energy exports away from Europe.  Moreover, the two countries share a long border.

However, despite their economic complementariness, energy ties between China and Russia are relatively modest.  In a chapter from The Future of China-Russia Relations (University of Kentucky Press, 2010) Erica Downs explains how the rise and fall in world oil prices, mutual mistrust and misunderstanding, Moscow’s energy diplomacy and rent struggles between Russian companies have impeded bilateral energy cooperation.