Guest Post: Russia and China's Energy Dispute and the Struggle for Eurasian Dominance

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by John Daly of

Russia and China's Energy Dispute and the Struggle for Eurasian Dominance

China’s voracious appetite for energy from anywhere has led most oil-producing nations to attempt to feed the dragon, including Russia.

But a curious situation has developed as regards Russian oil exports to the Celestial Kingdom, underlining that the two nations, which fought for global supremacy over the Communist movement for four decades, remain at best, “frenemies.”

According to Chinese customs reports, last month oil imports from Russia fell by nearly half.

Not so, Rosneft says, stating that deliveries are proceeding through the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) oil pipeline at their normal levels.

Russia is now China’s ninth largest source of oil imports, with Saudi Arabia first, Iran second and Angola third.

In trying to read the tea leaves in the contradictory statements emanating from Beijing and Rosneft, Russian analysts believe that China is sending Moscow a not so subtle signal that it can do without Russian imports.

The Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline began deliveries to China last January, at a volume of 300,000 barrels a day. Last month China imported 4.58 million barrels per day, with Russian imports making up a mere 6.5 percent of the total.

So, where’s the beef?

Money, apparently.

According to the 2009 Russian-Chinese intergovernmental agreement, oil deliveries to China through the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline are made under contracts among Russian oil company Rosneft, Russian state-owned pipeline monopoly Transneft, and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) for 15 million tons a year over two decades. In exchange for guarantees of long-term oil deliveries China provided Transneft and Rosneft with loans of $10 billion and $15 billion respectively.

But at the beginning of 2011 the CNPC started underpaying for Russian oil, as China demanded a revision of the price formula. It currently includes the price of transporting oil along ESPO’s entire route to the port terminal in Kozmino. But as the branch to China begins at the point of Skovorodino, 1,271 miles from Kozmino, China is insisting that the pricing formula must be revised and that the cost of transportation from Skovorodino to Kozmino must be subtracted from it, with Beijing originally estimating the difference at $12 a barrel, underpaying accordingly.

Accordingly, China’s debt as calculated by Moscow is now approximately $85 million. In a telling comment on the validity of both Russia and China’s court systems, Rosneft and Transneft have begun consulting with lawyers about the possibility of initiating a lawsuit against the CNPC at the London Court of Arbitration. Earlier this month Transneft sniffed that if the case goes to court, it is prepared to return to China the $10 billion received in 2009 and to stop transporting Russian oil to China, unilaterally abrogating the 20-year contract.

Switching gears, China is upping the stakes to begin discussions at the governmental level to resolve the impasse. Chinese negotiators have invited Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko to participate in the next round of talks, which is to take place in Beijing starting at the end of August, when it was originally assumed that only Rosneft and Transneft representatives would be participating in the discussions.

Konstantin Simonov, general director of the National Energy Security Foundation, is convinced that China is indulging in a bit of good old fashioned “provokatsiia,” to use a Soviet word, telling reporters, "The statement by the Chinese customs is of a provocative nature: The Chinese are endeavoring to show that Russia is not fulfilling its contract obligations and is casting doubt on the development of energy relations with China as a whole."

The reality is that Russia and China’s struggle for Eurasian dominance did not end with the 1991 collapse of Communism. The implosion of the Soviet system left many Russians feeling disoriented and it is worth remembering that the USSR was a continuation of the Russian Empire, which began to expand eastwards into Siberia in the later part of the 16th century.

Many Russian intellectuals bemoan the fact that Gorbachev liberalized the political system but not the economy, leading to the Soviet Union’s demise as China liberalized the economy while keeping tight Communist Party control, leading to the country’s dazzling economic achievements of the last decade.

The rivalry is evident in Moscow and Beijing’s contrasting visions of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which Russia sees primarily as a military structure, while Beijing favors increased economic integration. Both nations are engaged in an ongoing “Great Game” for the hearts, minds and economies of the former Soviet Central Asian states, with their rich energy assets. Beijing is making serious inroads there, not least of because of their deep pockets and the locals’ bitter memories of seven decades of Soviet domination.

Last but not least are Russian atavistic fears of the “yellow peril” and its threat to eastern Siberia, still largely devoid of population, large swathes which Russia acquired by the 1858 Aigun Treaty, which ceded the left bank of the Amur River to Russia and the 1860 Convention of Beijing, under which Russia gained control of Outer Mongolia. Both the Chinese Empire and subsequently the People’s Republic of China referred to them as “unequal treaties” until Prime Minister Zhou Enlai acknowledged them in 1969 in an effort to improve Soviet-Chinese relations in the wake of a series of violent frontier clashes along the Amur River earlier that year.

The struggle between the two nations is a fascinating study in opacity. Russia, the energy superpower versus China, the economic superpower. Amidst the energy pricing squabbles and ongoing covert struggle for influence in Eurasia, Beijing and Moscow nevertheless find common ground on one topic – limiting the influence of the United States. If 42 years ago Soviet and Communist Chinese politicians could hammer out a border agreement, what’s a mere $85 million among friends?

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andybev01's picture

We were always at war with Eurasia...bitchezz!!

spiral_eyes's picture

the endgame is world war 3. 

war hawks love a good war — and want to enslave eurasia to american interests. keynesians want to raise aggregate demand. eurasians want america to fuck off.

as a briton, i am staring on, baffled and bemused. 

Bicycle Repairman's picture

Russia vs. China or India vs. China is an American "wet dream".  Wonder if this is wishful thinking or an omen?

russki standart's picture

I wouldn´t read too much into this dispute. As is typical, the chinese are trying to re-negotiate their agreements. It will stop when the US attacks Iran, and Saudi Arabia becomes destablized. 

Paul Bogdanich's picture

Well they can always find common ground in their unlimited dispise of Anglo - American societies and our ethnic minority controlled finance sector.  International something or other I think they used to call it. 

Martel's picture

I agree. The Chinese way to trade is to first win a deal - even at a bad price - and then try to make it more profitable by small adjustments. If they are the supplier, cheaper material, less of it, bad components etc. works fine. The buyer faces a death by thousand cuts.

Now that the Chinese are the buyer, they use excuses to pay less than stipulated in the agreement. Russia's Chinese deal might remain profitable, but more Chinese "adjustments" are in the pipeline.

Moreover, Russia's gas deals with Western Europe will turn sour, because cheaper alternatives are becoming available. Polish shale gas, even shipping LNG from the U.S. will put price pressure on Russian CNG. This after investing billions in Nordstream pipeline infrastructure.



bankruptcylawyer's picture

world war iii is a black swan. american military has been getting what it wants without world war three for 60 years now and counting. 


next up syria. and we will be using the turkish army for ground troops. .......then onto iran. 


we are winning without idiotic bush policies of invasion. this is the way to really roll. the more you accomplish without force, the stronger your empire is.

spiral_eyes's picture

as a taleb disciple, world war 3 is not a black swan. zbigniew brzezinski painted the geostrategic outline almost 30 years ago in the grand chessboard. nothing annoys taleb more than people misusing the term 'black swan' on stuff that thousands of people predicted, and policy-makers ignored (cause krugman says the only thing we need to focus on is aggregate demand).

other than that, i agree with you. 

fxrxexexdxoxmx's picture

The Nobel Peace prize winning TOTUS , Obummer, is non violently killing women, children, and occasionally bad guys in Pakistan every single day. Pakistan is an idiotic Obama war of aggression, oh and lets not forget Libya... using NATO aircraft to kill innocent men and women by Obama is not aggresive????? Obama's policies do not include invasion so it is not bad.........WTF.

russki standart's picture

Re Spiral_eyes, the western powers are still playing Mackinders great game of geopolitics. Quoting the great man:


"Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;
who rules the World-Island controls the world."
With more than 70% of the worlds population, and 50% of the resources, America must  this game to achieve full spectrum dominance

dick cheneys ghost's picture

Why do you think we have 400 military bases in afghanistan?.........

fxrxexexdxoxmx's picture

Iran. All military actions occuring in the countries which share borders with Iran are about Iran. Everthing else you have been told as to the reason for our troops in these countries has been and will continue to be about Iran. Obama killing women and children in Pakistan nearly everyday is Obama proving he can kill with immunity and no need for Congressional approval.

apu123's picture

China will probably just end up annexing Russia from the Urals to the Russian Far East.  After all there are only a couple million Russians in that area and around 700 million Chinese just south of the border. 

BorisTheBlade's picture

Chinese population is distributed unevenly throughout China's territory: most live in a relatively fertile areas around Yangtze River and close to the shore, right next to the border with Russia it is definitely much less than 700 million. And there is a reason why Siberia and Far East of Russia are so sparsely populated: climate and soil fertility - this area can hardly support larger population.

Flakmeister's picture


Are the Chinese confident that those supplies can be replaced? I'd love to see the import numbers. If such a drop occurred, who is picking up the slack?

Flakmeister's picture

BR and D

Fucked if I know... ain't privy to the data....

EDIT: Hunted around and found this link, for 2010

It would seem that the slack maybe being picked up from Africa (Sudan?), also note that China gets ~900,000 bblpd from "other" countries. The cut off is ~150,000 bpd to be in this category...Venezuala is likely in this.

Of the net exports, they take ~50% of Angolan, 10% of SA, ~20% of Iranian, ~5% of Russian and 10% of Libyan...

topcallingtroll's picture

Divide and conquer, bitchez.

Construct's picture

dog eat dog. not devide and conquer. globalization is out the window. everybody is just trying to save their own interests before this puke sinks.

Amish Hacker's picture

Here's the difference: under capitalism, the whole system is just dog-eat-dog. Under communism, it's the other way around.

Caviar Emptor's picture

China has not only signed energy deals with Kazakhstan and completed a pipeline in 2009, it signed the deals as yuan tenge swaps (no dollars, folks). Kazakhstan was the 12th country to sign a currency swap agreement with China. 

russki standart's picture

China is on the way to creating a reserve currency. Currency swap agreements are necessary preconditions.

besnook's picture

 the dispute is a tempest in a teapot. their opposition to the unipolar world binds them together with duct tape. an alliance between russia, china and iran with a semi closed trade network in asia(trading in the yuan) would be impervious to the west especially if europe can be subjugated by energy extortion.


india is the grand prize. india knows it is playing both sides against the middle and will stay in that position as long as it is beneficial. japan knows it's future is with china as hatoyama finally publicized, hence the battle for japan.

Flakmeister's picture

Ummm.... Eastasia, anyone?

I have to look at the production numbers, at first blush I don't think it flies.

dick cheneys ghost's picture

Here is everything I have on (SCO) Shanghai Coop Organization. Pepe Escobar has written most of it.........Very interesting topic, geo-politically speaking......

QaplaSilver's picture

Thorium!! Game changer

carbonmutant's picture

"Alarm bells went off on Tuesday in the Chinese and Russian capitals after Abdeljalil Mayouf, a manager of the rebel-controlled Arabian Gulf Oil Company (AGOCO) warned that China, Russia and Brazil in contrast to Western nations could face political obstacles in reverting back to business as usual once Mr. Qaddafi has been removed from power."

CrashisOptimistic's picture

Thorium is silliness and the only game it changes is the one that crushes the spirits of those who hope and pray for thorium.

As for the article, Rosneft is VERY MUCH aware that its fields EVEN WITH NEWLY DRILLED WELLS are declining in production 5%/yr.  They want to be paid every penny they can get because the future of domestic revenue growth is not rosey.  Rosneft, frankly, is depending on production from leases they bought outside Russia to have any chance at fighting off that decline.

Think real carefully about that.  A huge oil company from the largest oil producer in the world is going elsewhere for barrels.

China's oil production is a state secret (in the context of KSA, where no independent audits are allowed), and worse, there have recently been a number of petroleum geologists who went there with journalism credentials to deduce numbers from observations.  THEY ARE IN JAIL.

China understands that GDP growth doesn't happen without oil consumption growth.  Let's try that on for size again.  GDP GROWTH DOESN'T HAPPEN WITHOUT OIL CONSUMPTION GROWTH.

And that, boys and girls, is the engine of war upcoming.

FeralSerf's picture

It's rumoured that if you poke a 7 mile deep hole in the Gulf of Mexico, you'll have more oil than you'll know what to do with.  It comes up (hot) all by itself -- no pumping expenses.


CrashisOptimistic's picture

It's rumored that all those companies' executives know this, but do not want to provide themselves with the consequent bonuses that would result, so they do not drill.

It's also rumored that they make the same no drill choice offshore Argentina and offshore Portugal (where US environmentalists have no say), because they just don't want bigger bonuses each year.  

FeralSerf's picture

Links please!

How big was Tony Hayward's bonus for finding that gusher in the GoM?  How many barrels is the well producing today?

Energy availability is the method that the Power Elites use to control the people.  Oil company executives drill where they are told they can drill and the oil companies mostly produce the amount of oil that they are allowed to produce.

Flakmeister's picture

Lets say you are correct and there are 80 billion barrels of oil ready to gush forth like Dick Cheney on Viagra and an 8-balll...

Whoopee... don't change a thing. Changes the world reserves by 8% and doesn't change peak oil one whit... 

Loosen the chin strap on the tin foil hat. It's cutting off the blood circulation to your brain...

Chew on this:

Number of rigs drilling:

The US is being pincushioned...

Reconcile your views with the data

FeralSerf's picture

How many of those rigs are there drilling below 30,000 ft or so?

The Titan probe proved that non-biological methane is plentiful.  The Deepwater Horizon incident suggests that there may exist deep abiotic hydrocarbons.  The peak oil theory/religion/meme may not be as solid as was once believed.  There are good reasons for the Power Elites to promote a peak oil meme if energy is a primary method of control of the proletariat and I submit that it is.  Those who control the oil supply also control life itself, not to mention all the good stuff that western civilization as we know it provides.

I used to believe in the peak oil meme as well.  I now have doubts, at least that all earthly hydrocarbons are biological in origin.

Pay Day Today's picture

There's never been any doubt that there are huge amounts more oil in the earth's crust.

Problem is a lot of it is oil which will cost $75-$100/bb to extract.

In other words, it is oil which is priced to drive the economy into a recession, and the more of it you have to use, the deeper in recession you will be.

Not helpful.

Flakmeister's picture

Damn... you went abiotic on us....

- oil gets cooked in NG at those depths.

- all oil fields have been shown to originate in sedimentary rock

- all oil is associated with biological markers...

- Even if it does exist, the replenishment rate is much lower than our rate of extraction...

Do you not agree that there are many companies capable of the CAPEX to drill to 30,000 ft? So even if there was a conspiracy among the big boys, there are more than enough other players that would become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, if they slyly drillled deep. You are telling me that no one goes rogue? Your conspiracy just doesn't hold up.

Do you have any idea how much it is to drill in Deep water? It costs much less punching holes on land... 

FeralSerf's picture
  • <<- all oil fields have been shown to originate in sedimentary rock>>

This is not true!

"The modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins is not controversial nor presently a matter of academic debate. The period of debate about this extensive body of knowledge has been over for approximately two decades (Simakov 1986). The modern theory is presently applied extensively throughout the former U.S.S.R. as the guiding perspective for petroleum exploration and development projects. There are presently more than 80 oil and gas fields in the Caspian district alone which were explored and developed by applying the perspective of the modern theory and which produce from the crystalline basement rock. (Krayushkin, Chebanenko et al. 1994) Similarly, such exploration in the western Siberia cratonic-rift sedimentary basin has developed 90 petroleum fields of which 80 produce either partly or entirely from the crystalline basement. The exploration and discoveries of the 11 major and 1 giant fields on the northern flank of the Dneiper-Donets basin have already been noted. There are presently deep drilling exploration projects under way in Azerbaijan, Tatarstan, and Asian Siberia directed to testing potential oil and gas reservoirs in the crystalline basement."

What conspiracy?  The one that says that there's a Power Elite that controls most of the planet's resources and therefor the people?  Do you actually believe that free markets exist?

Flakmeister's picture

Uhhh... ok, is that the best link you can come up with? I was hoping for better...

What company owns the fields? What are the production rates?

C'mon.... why does this stuff always happen in Russia or some other unverifiable place?

Flakmeister's picture


And its rumored that if I click my heels three times and whistle dixie that Art Linkletter will rise from the grave...

Flakmeister's picture

Hey Russki.... you missed junking this one.... asshole.

russki standart's picture

Feel better? 

I read that Al Gore is going all out to promote his AGW fraud, September 14th.  Should be fun to watch the fat one tell everyone else to tighten their belt. Also, it appears that the lead host is a black female, so if you disagree with AGW, you are a racist. We now have a totally conflicted bloated ex VP promoting post normal science using a person of color as his shield.  No wonder America is in decline. 

MoneyWise's picture

Who needs OIL, Bitchez!!!? It will be all about

Solar in 10+ years, after all it's free and clean..

OIL and Coal is Caveman energy sources..

Solar and Hydrogen from water.. Drive your cars on water

even on salt water, yeah, baby, plenty of that stuff around

for free..

Invest in Solar. Gold as well, some caveman money..

Did I mention Vodka??? :)))

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

As America declines relative to the rest of the world, our nominal enemies will start up with their own rivalries and disputes.  China vs. Russia should not surprise anyone.

If we successfully get out of Afghanistan, then there will be fewer worries from both Russia and China about American interference in their shared backyard there in Central Asia.  China SEEMS like they have the upper hand there.

China also seems to be growing better than Russia.  This will start to worry Japan, Russia, India and Vietnam.  It would not surprise me if some of them decide to become closer to AMERICA rather than China.

Russia will continue to annoy us because of European manueuvres and Iran.  China will alarm us because of growing power.   I think Russia may come to their sense and start worrying about resource-rich Siberia...  China already has many of their citizens there, like we have Mexicans in our southwest.  A real problem...

So, my take is that we can relax about China and Russia.  They will be rivals without us even having to get involved.  We can get closer to Japan (if they survive...), India and Vietnam.  With careful diplomacy, we do not have to worry much.  Our INTERNAL stresses (and enemies for that matter) are more dangerous for us than China.  And a China & Russia axis will not happen IMO because of their conflicting interests.

russki standart's picture

We will never voluntarily leave Afghanistan. The production and marketing of heroin is too lucrative.

MoneyWise's picture

WE going to hear this alternative currency/ backed by Gold currencies Bullsh*t stories ones again as well.. Same BS over and over again.. Heard them in 2007, after that in 2008 King Dollar smack every face out there.. Chavez, China, Russia, who else is mooning about? Ones crisis hit the Earth, all their currencies collapsing against the Dollar, so they better shut up, lesson should be learned already.. Dollar still a King among those paper ZOO creatures..

Spitzer's picture

The Euro is waiting in the wings

MoneyWise's picture

And don't compare Russia to China.. Russia is Mafia running criminal Country..Hot OIL money often piling up offshore, most of the Kremlin brotherhood having a double or triple Citizenship and ready to get the f* out anytime.. Every A$$ out there can be bought From President to policeman on the street, by Chinese, Japanese, whoever showing the money, they don't give a f*ck..