China’s Economic Support for Russia Could Elicit More Sanctions

The United States has cracked down on some of the companies and organizations providing goods and services to Russia. In January, it imposed sanctions on a Chinese company that had provided satellite imagery to the Wagner mercenary group, which has played a large role in the battle for eastern Ukraine. In December, it added two Chinese research institutes to a list of entities that supply the Russian military, which will restrict their access to U.S. technology.

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But tracking by research firms shows that trade in goods that the Russian military effort can use has flourished. According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, an online data platform, shipments from China to Russia of aluminum oxide, a metal that can be used in armored vehicles, personal protective equipment and ballistic shields, soared by more than 25 times from 2021 to 2022.

Shipments of minerals and chemicals used in the production of missile casings, bullets, explosives and propellants have also increased, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity. And China shipped $23 million worth of drones and $33 million worth of certain aircraft and spacecraft parts to Russia last year, up from zero the prior year, according to the group’s data.

Data from Silverado Policy Accelerator, a Washington nonprofit, shows that Russian imports of integrated circuits, or chips, which are crucial in rebuilding tanks, aircraft, communications devices and weaponry, plummeted immediately after the invasion but crept up over the past year.

In December, Russia’s imports of chips had recovered to more than two-thirds of their value last February, just before the war began, according to Silverado. Chip exports to Russia from China, in particular, rose 44 percent between March and December, ending up at a higher level than they were before the invasion.