China to exploit Russian coal deposits (despite COP26)

China needs coal to end its energy crisis. Given its stagnant economy, Russia is betting on China’s needs. While Beijing is encouraging the use of "clean" coal, its efforts to break from the polluting material are in danger. Putin’s Russia is now playing second fiddle to Xi’s China.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – China and Russia are ready to jointly develop coal deposits on Russian territory. The commitments by the two governments at the recent COP26 in Glasgow seem to have already been forgotten.

Beijing needs coal for its power plants at a time when it is struggling to overcome an energy crisis that has badly affected its economy since August.

After years of economic stagnation, aggravated by the persistent COVID-19 emergency, Moscow needs to raise cash. Exporting its mineral wealth and natural resources is the only real source of foreign currency for the former Soviet power.

Coal shortages and related price increases are the main reasons for ongoing power blackouts in China.

In order to meet the targets for reducing harmful emissions, many Chinese provinces have curbed coal production.

Together with India, China demanded that the COP26 final communiqué refer to "reduction" and not "elimination" of the use of coal in the coming years.

The agreement with Russia and the US$ 31 billion in credits that the Chinese government has promised to encourage the use of "clean" coal (a myth for a large part of the scientific community) confirm doubts about Beijing’s real commitment to fight climate change.

Above all, the Chinese and the Russians have agreed to jointly manage the Zashulanskoe deposit in the Siberian region of Trans-Baikal. Moscow has also pledged to immediately increase coal supplies to its Chinese partner.

China must compensate for the loss of coal from Australia after banning it, sparking a trade war with that country.

Russian and Chinese authorities are also considering working together to exploit Russian oil and gas fields, both on land and at sea.

On Wednesday, during a virtual meeting with Russian officials, Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng said that energy is the most important “practical cooperation” between the two countries, Xinhua reported.

During the same meeting, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak stressed that Russian gas exports to China from the Siberian pipeline have gone from 4.1 billion cubic metres in 2020 to 12 billion this year.

At Beijing's request this month, electricity supplies also doubled to reach 555 million kilowatt-hours per month.

To counter the pressure from the United States and its allies, China and Russia have boosted political, economic and military collaboration.

A nuclear superpower with the economic system of a third world country, Russia now seems resigned to a subordinate role of exporter of raw materials to Xi Jinping’s China.