A Multipolar Shift with Energy and Dollar Disruptions• https://mises.org, Victor Xing
In 2021, China imported 79.6 million tons of crude from Russia (1.6 million barrels per day) vs. 87.6 million tons from Saudi Arabia (1.8 million barrels per day). These two producers respectively accounted for 15.5% and 17.1% of China's total crude import at 513.2 million tons (10.3 million barrels per day), which was near Saudi Arabia's total 2021 output of 515 million tons. At present demand, China is both Saudi Arabia and Russia's top energy customer:
Following the onset of the war in Europe, rising yuan-denominated Russian crude export and omission of Russia's Eastern Siberia Pacific Ocean (ESPO) grade crude from broader commodity indices would likely erode Brent crude's role as a global oil benchmark. Investors focusing solely on Brent may overlook key market shifts.
China's energy demand was subdued in 2021 and 2022 due to pandemic restrictions, and a broader economic reopening would likely accelerate demand for both Russian and Saudi energy products (by 2+ million barrels a day). However, Brent would only reflect part of the demand surge due to ESPO shipment and direct Russo-China pipeline flows. In 2022, sale of Russian pipeline crude to China totaled 33.3 million tons by October (nearly half of Russian flows to China over the period). Given crude pipelines would not use EU or G7 insurance services, the products would trade at uncapped prices into 2023.