NewsChina cools on Putin's gas pipeline plans

China cools on Putin's gas pipeline plans

Vladimir Putin during a visit to China
Vladimir Putin during a visit to China
Images source: © Getty Images | Anadolu

8:49 AM EDT, May 24, 2024

According to Mikhail Krutikhin, a Russian energy expert, the Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline project, championed by President Vladimir Putin, did not receive enthusiasm from the Chinese side during the recent meeting of the leaders of both countries in Beijing, reports The Moscow Times.

As The Moscow Times reports, during Vladimir Putin's recent visit to Beijing, China did not show interest in the Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline project, which would supply Russian gas through Mongolia. According to Mikhail Krutikhin, a Russian energy expert residing in Oslo, this became evident before the Russian delegation arrived in the Chinese capital.

China distances itself from Putin's idea

Krutikhin notes that the nominal head of Gazprom, Alexey Miller, was not included in the representative delegation, which may indicate the marginal importance of this issue for the Chinese side. The expert emphasizes that Putin personally makes all decisions regarding the Russian gas giant.

The Chinese agreed to mention the Power of Siberia 2 project out of courtesy in one of the meeting's final documents. The Moscow Times reported that the gas pipeline wording is diplomatic and bureaucratic: "The parties will make efforts to speed up the investigation and agreement on the construction of a new gas pipeline from Russia to China through Mongolia."

Krutikhin points out that this provision does not oblige the parties to continue working on the project but only to "make efforts" to "promote" it. He believes promotion should be understood as further attempts to convince China to accept the Russian proposal.

Beijing's concerns over the Kremlin's geopolitical plans

According to Krutikhin, another factor discouraging China from the Power of Siberia 2 project could be Putin's statements suggesting using interconnected pipelines in eastern and western Russia for geopolitical purposes. President Xi Jinping is likely concerned about his Moscow counterpart's plans, who announced shifting gas exports from Europe to Asia and back depending on the situation.

The expert highlights that during negotiations on cooperation in the gas sector, the Chinese categorically rejected pipeline projects passing through third countries such as Mongolia or Kazakhstan. Therefore, Beijing does not find relying on gas supplies through Mongolia attractive.

As noted by The Moscow Times, crucial "binding" agreements with Beijing, mentioned by the Russian energy ministry, are still absent. Krutikhin does not rule out that Gazprom might start building the gas pipeline without China's clear consent, as the company needs gas from Western Siberia both to fulfill the current 30-year contract for the Power of Siberia and the already signed agreement for the supply of 350 billion cubic feet annually to the Far East. The expert also suggests that using enormous funds for such projects remains an essential argument for corrupt officials in the state company.

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