China's Growing Exports of Advanced Machine Tools to Russia

tendata blogTrade Trends News

ten data blog09-01-2024

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Since the invasion of Ukraine, China has increased its exports of modern machine tools to Russia for the military industry.

Currently, the majority of shipments of "computer numerical control" equipment used in Moscow's defense industry come from Chinese suppliers.

The FT writes that since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, China's sales to Russia of an important class of modern equipment have increased.

These machine tools are vital to Moscow's military industry. Their ability to quickly manufacture complex metal and other hard material parts makes them important for defense production.

Russian defense companies such as Aeroscan have imported Chinese-made products, including Lancet kamikaze drones, which have caused heavy casualties to Ukrainian forces.

Russian customs reported that Chinese manufacturers supplied $68 million in CNC equipment in July (the latest verified figure), up from $6.5 million in February 2022, Russian customs reported.

Scale of Advanced Tools Received by Russia from China

Chinese-made CNC equipment accounted for 57% of Russian imports in July, up from 12% in pre-war months. They also said that Moscow has continued to buy large quantities of CNC tools made in South Korea and Taiwan.

Beijing claims not to supply Moscow with lethal weapons, but opposes sanctions. China also supplies consumer goods, cars, machinery, electricity and other items to sanctioned Russia, and in October, Chinese President Xi Jinping reminded Vladimir Putin that annual trade between the two countries had reached a "record high" of more than $200 billion.

An analysis of export statistics by the Financial Times shows that several of Russia's big rising donors have close ties to the People's Liberation Army. Wuhan-based Huazhong Numerical Control, for example, has increased its exports to Russia, where it faced US sanctions between 2008 and 2010 under a law restricting exports of military technology or equipment to North Korea, Syria or Iran.

According to the Bank of Finland's Institute for Emerging Economies, the median price of a basket of Chinese commodities that Russia could use to aid the war effort increased by 78 percent between 2021 and 2023. When China sells these commodities, foreign countries pay only 12% extra for the same products.

Western Attempts to Influence Russia to Circumvent Sanctions

In November, the U.S. imposed stiff penalties on all large Russian importers of CNC tools, even those that had transferred less than $200,000 in machinery and equipment since the February invasion. Chinese companies that continue to work with Russian importers now face U.S. measures that could jeopardize their ability to trade in other countries.

Emily Kilcrease, a former deputy assistant to the U.S. Trade Representative, claimed that Washington is hesitant to impose sanctions against Chinese companies supplying Russia for fear that doing so would reduce the effectiveness of sanctions in the event of a crisis with Beijing.

The surge in Chinese exports of advanced machine tools to Russia casts a shadow over more than just trade figures. It paints a grim picture of a deepening Sino-Russian relationship forged in the midst of war, with potentially dangerous consequences for global security. These sophisticated tools, vital to Moscow's military production, are more than just business deals. They are a worrisome form of indirect war aid.

China's economic and military power, as well as its growing disrespect for international standards, poses a clear and serious challenge. It requires a complex and moderated response. The West cannot afford to alienate China entirely and bring it closer to Russia.

It will be difficult to stop Russia's war in Ukraine and halt Russian weapons production without preventing China from supplying Moscow with advanced machine tools.

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