For those curious who will pick up Russia's trade slack now that most western nations have shunned the Putin regime, here's your answer.
On Wednesday, China revealed that overall trade with Russia soared to 243.03 billion yuan ($38.18 billion) in January-March, up 27.8% from a year earlier.
It wasn't just Russia however, and according to customs spokesman Li Kuiwen, China’s total trade with Ukraine also climbed to 29.6 billion yuan in the first quarter, up 10.6%.
China’s trade with both Russia and Ukraine has maintained an uptrend, Li said, adding that China’s economic and trade cooperation with other countries including Russia and Ukraine will remain normal.
China’s overall trade with Russia reached 190.12 billion yuan in January-March 2021, while its trade with Ukraine stood at 26.77 billion yuan, according to previous customs data.
But while China is aggressively taking advantage of steeply discounted Russian goods and importing up a storm from the sanctioned regime, it has definitively slowed down imports from other places, and as it unveiled overnight, while China's March exports remained strong, rising 14.7% Y/Y and slightly above the consensus expectations - moderating as consumer electronic products and Covid-driven demand remained strong - overall imports actually declined 0.1% yoy in March, well below consensus expectations and partially driven by lower crude oil, coal and iron ore import volumes. Sequentially, imports declined 2.3% mom sa in March (vs. +2.7% in January-February).
Drilling down a little more: among major import categories, crude oil import value grew by 36.0% yoy in March (vs. 49.2% in January-February). In volume terms, crude oil imports decreased by 14.0% yoy (vs. -4.9% yoy in January-February). Coal import value growth moderated to 6.7% yoy from 124% yoy in January-February driven by a decline in import volume which dropped by 39.9% yoy (vs. -13.9% in January-February). The implied coal import price still rose 78% yoy in March (vs. 160% yoy in January-February). Iron ore import value also fell 34.0% yoy in March (vs. -27.7% in January-February) with import volume down 14.5% yoy (vs. -0.2% yoy in January-February). Import value of integrated circuits increased by +6.9% yoy in March, decelerating from +19.3% yoy in January-February.
As a result of the collapse in imports, China's trade surplus in March was $47.4bn, well above consensus expectations.
Commenting on China's dismal trade data, hit by global growth prospects and exacerbated by Shanghai port congestion, Peter Boockvar writes that "in a likely sign of the slowdown to come (Chinese) imports were flat instead of rising by 8.4% as forecasted...world needs the Chinese consumer again." Judging by how stiny the PBOC has been with its monetary stimulus (so far), the world will have to keep waiting for a long time.