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Chinese impulse

The Far East was at the epicenter of Russian-Chinese economic cooperation

Chinese impulse

From the Russian-Chinese cooperation, the prospect of social and economic development of the Russian Far East, as well as the Trans-Baikal region and the Baikal region, increasingly begins to depend. The changes that are taking place are generally positive. If we abstract from advertising and declarations, the reality turns out to be more complicated, although, again, it is quite promising.

Speaking about the influence of Russian-Chinese relations on the Far East, it should be recalled that the foreign economic relations of the two countries still have a negative balance unfavorable for Russia, and this situation is getting worse. Thus, at the end of 2013, Russia increased imports from China by 12,6% (to $ 49,59 billion), while exports decreased by 10,3% (amounting to $ 39,62 billion). As one would expect, Russian exports to China have a pronounced raw material character, where more than two thirds are hydrocarbon supplies, primarily oil and coal. Slightly more than 7% in the structure of Russian exports are non-ferrous metals, about the same - timber. Most of the supplies come from Siberia and the Far East.

In these not very favorable conditions, Russia is undoubtedly interested in increasing exports to China, in connection with which the Far East and the Baikal region have a good chance. First of all, it is associated with an increase in raw materials exports - due to the specifics of the Far Eastern economy. Although there is a certain potential for non-resource and even high-tech exports of Far Eastern products. Russia has long been talking about Chinese "expansion" in the eastern regions of the country, but its positive effects have not really made themselves felt. In fact, the presence of large Chinese businesses in the Far East is just beginning to show. Direct Chinese investments in Russia, which are also still small, are gradually growing. So, to date, they have exceeded a total of $ 4 billion, amounting to about $ 650-700 million per year (by the way, exceeding direct Russian investments in China by their total accumulated volume by about five times, and in annual terms at present - more than 20 times). So far, China is not a major investor in Russia, and its direct investment does not exceed 3%. Nevertheless, it is possible to predict an increase in their volume.

Very relevant is the question, to what extent and for how long China may need Far Eastern raw materials. On this depends the stability of the socio-economic development of the region, as well as the emergence of a chance to use the funds received by Russia, not for fast eating, but for diversifying the economy, creating more powerful processing, the real sector. China's needs for raw materials are indeed growing. Although the stability of the Chinese economy in the future will decline due to a slowdown in growth and structural fluctuations that will lead to stagnation and decline of some industries and the likely growth of others. But in any case, the country's dependence on imports will, according to all forecasts, increase.

It should be borne in mind that in China, politics and the economy are closely interrelated, and when building foreign economic relations, the state pays much attention to geopolitical layouts and calculations. Russia now seems to China a convenient partner, given its deteriorating relations with the West and the likely partial closure of Western markets for it. But in any case, China's foreign economic policy is based on the diversification of sources of raw materials, so as not to allow excessive dependence on a particular supplier. Therefore, it is unlikely that Russia will be able to exert any decisive influence on China on some or other critical supplies for the country. But for its part, China, by virtue of its great needs, has the capacity to reorient many Russian companies and regions and tie them to itself more tightly.

An increasingly important role is played by the export of Russian oil to China. But it is precisely with respect to oil that China is particularly clear about the policy of diversifying sources. Actually, oil imports in 2013 amounted to 282 million tons, and there is a slowdown in the growth rate of imports (in 2012, it grew by 7%, and in 2013 by 4%). Therefore, it is not necessary to expect that imports will rise sharply. Although the rate of oil imports continues to be important for China, since the development of its own new deposits appears to him to be more expensive. It is expected that the share of imported oil in 2015 will be 61%, while in 2010 it was at the level of 54%.

Russia is a relatively new supplier of oil to China, and its importance is increasing, but it is not and will never be dominant. At present, Russia gives the order of 8% of China's oil imports. It essentially lags behind Saudi Arabia and Angola, whose share in January 2014 amounted to 18,1% and 13,7%, respectively. Russia is among a fairly large group of countries that are able to occupy a share of the order of 6-10% each on the Chinese oil market. This group also includes Iran, Iraq, Oman and Venezuela. And it is interesting that last year there was a sharp increase in oil imports from Iraq, which became roughly comparable with Russia. Traditionally, China pays much attention to its political and economic relations with the countries of tropical Africa, which is reflected, in particular, in the sharp increase in imports of oil from the Republic of the Congo (as well as in strong ties with Angola).

Nevertheless, the role of Russia in the Chinese oil market, most likely, will also grow. Since 2011 and until recently, at the heart of the oil trade between the two countries was a contract between Rosneft and also the state-owned CNPC, the leader of the Chinese oil and gas industry, on deliveries of 15 million tons of oil per year (the supply plan is 300 million tons to 2030 ). In March this year. There was a second agreement (deliveries of 365 million tons for 25 years). Thus, Russia is able to increase the supply of crude oil to China to at least 30 million tons per year, which, perhaps, will allow it to exceed the 10-percent threshold in Chinese oil imports and exit, if not the second, then the third. But most likely this is China's need for Russian oil and will almost be exhausted.

For the Far East, oil supplies to China are important for the reason that they allow the expansion of production in Yakutia, which is gradually becoming one of the important oil regions of the country. Up to now, Eastern Siberia, represented by the Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Irkutsk Region, played a more important role in these deliveries, but the Far East is able to increase its share in the ESPO pipeline. Along with the long-established "Surgutneftegaz" in Yakutia, Rosneft, which is the main supplier of oil to China now and for many years, can play an important role here. Moreover, the Chinese begin to work directly in the Russian oil sector in the Far East. Last year, Rosneft and CNPC signed a memorandum stipulating the joint development of the Srednebotuobinsky oil field (just before that Rosneft consolidated 100% LLC Taas-Yuryakh Neftegazodobycha, which owns the license).

However, Russian reserves to ensure export supplies are not so great that it limits the possibilities of Rosneft and other companies. As you know, the question of Russia's ability to provide large and growing oil supplies to China was controversial from the very beginning. Apparently, the Krasnoyarsk Territory will play the most important role in providing supplies, where, along with the new fields of Rosneft (Yurubcheno-Tohomsky Group), the Slavneft fields, controlled by Rosneft and Gazprom Neft (Kuyumbinskoye field). In other words, Russia and the Far East in the next few years will reach a certain stable level of oil supplies to China, but without the prospect of a significant increase. Although in itself this level is quite solid, China will not give more to Russia, and Russia will not master it either.

The issue of supplying petroleum products to China is somewhat more complicated. Now Russia sells in the Asia-Pacific region less than 10% of its exports of oil products, and it is unclear why this share may be increased. The same China is now increasing exports, and not the import of petroleum products. It is no accident that Rosneft is engaged in the refinery project directly in China, in Tianjin, with processing capacity of 16 million tons (its launch is planned for the end of 2019). But at the same time, it is promoting the project of the Eastern Petrochemical Company (VNKhK) in Primorsky Krai, which will become officially the territory of advanced development supported by the federal authorities (TOR). At the same time, the export potential of VNKhK in the markets of China and the APR as a whole is not yet obvious.

The new direction of Russian raw exports to China is the export of natural gas, for which the "Siberia Power" gas pipeline will be built. Here the situation is somewhat simpler, since China's dependence on gas imports will grow rapidly, and there will be a place for Russia in the market. The growth of the share of gas in China's total energy consumption is forecasted, up to 230 billion cubic meters in 2015 (2013 billion cubic meters in 167,6). At the same time, the rate of growth of own production will be inferior to the growth rate of imports. In 2013, China imported 53 billion cubic meters, which amounted to almost 32% of its consumption. More than half of the imports are now provided by Turkmenistan. Thus, in essence, Russia and Turkmenistan will become the two main suppliers of pipeline gas to China, competing with each other and giving comparable volumes of supplies. Moreover, Turkmenistan plans to remain the leader and increase the volume of supplies to 2020 to 65 billion cubic meters per year. According to the contract signed in May between Gazprom and CNPC, Russia will supply China with 38 billion cubic meters of gas per year for 30 years, starting from 2019. The possibilities for expansion of supplies are still unclear.

From the regions of the Far East, gas supplies to China are of fundamental importance for the same Yakutia. Here, instead of traditionally local gas production, a powerful project of the Chayanda field will arise, where gas will be produced in 2018. The Kovykta field in the Irkutsk region will be another gas supplier to China. Control of production and exports will, of course, Gazprom.

At the same time, deliveries of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Russia are oriented so far to Japan and Korea. China is increasing imports of LNG, which is now about 15 million tons per year, but the increase in imports was due to Qatar, ahead of Australia. Significant are also deliveries from Indonesia and Malaysia. Russia in 2012 delivered only 360 thousand tons of LNG to China. It is possible that new projects of LNG plants in Primorsky Krai and Sakhalin will be more focused on Chinese needs, which is a clear prospect.

The third most important Russian commodity exported to China is coal. A sharp increase in exports occurred in 2009, when its volume reached 9,3 million tons. The impulse to supply Russian coal to China was then launched by the coal port terminal of SUEK in the Khabarovsk Territory. Now a number of promising Russian-Chinese projects are connected with coal.

At present, China is the largest importer of coal in the world. This is due, above all, to the predominance of thermal power plants operating in coal (they give 70% of electricity produced in the country) in the Chinese electric power industry. Despite obvious environmental problems, the historically developed dependence of Chinese generation on coal can not be overcome. China and coking coal for ferrous metallurgy are also needed. In 2013, the import of coal reached 327 million tons in China. Russia is able to become a fairly large player in this market, but far from domination. The fact is that China is increasing its own coal production, in connection with which the import was even slightly reduced in the most recent years. In general, imports go to the coastal southern and eastern regions of China, which are located farther from Russia, while in the north of China, its extraction is in progress. More than 60% of coal supplies to China are provided by Australia and Indonesia, with which Russia will not be able to compete on an equal footing (in these countries China engages in coal mining and directly through its companies).

Nevertheless, Russia is able to gain a foothold in the Chinese coal market, and for this purpose it is very important to develop new deposits in the Far East. The key project here may be the project of the Elga field in Yakutia, controlled by Mechel (the first phase of the field should be launched in 2017, the production volume will be 11,7 million tons per year). It is assumed that, along with Vnesheconombank, the project will be financed by China Exim Bank, one of the supporting state banks of China. But for a full-fledged launch of the project, it is necessary to solve the acute financial problems of Mechel, which can actually be nationalized in this process. At the same time, up to 49% of Elga’s shares are expected to be sold to Chinese companies.

Another significant exporter of coal from Yakutia will probably be Kolmar, controlled by G.Timchenko. An influential businessman has already attracted the company China Harbor Engineering Co. (One of the world leaders in the construction of port infrastructure and dredging) to cooperate with Kolmar and Sakhatrans, which owns a coal terminal under construction in the Khabarovsk Territory (most likely, the Chinese company will become a co-owner of the assets of G.Timchenko). "Colmar" is capable of increasing coal production to 7 million tons, and its bulk can be exported to China (Colmar is already exporting coal to this country). And the terminal "Sakhatrans" will, according to plans, hand over 13,2 million tons of coal.

The third Russian-Chinese coal project can be implemented in the Amur Region at the Gerbikano-Ogodzha group of fields (here it is possible to produce up to 30 million tons of coal per year). The Chinese company Shenhua (the largest coal company in China and in the world) already started to deal with this project, but its Russian partner Rosstopprom went bankrupt. Now the process of preparing the project has been started anew, Rostekh is involved in it from the Russian side, and exports are planned to be carried out through a new port complex Vera in the closed city of Fokino in Primorye.

Finally, the fourth is the project of the Zashulansky deposit in Transbaikalia, which is being handled by the same Shenhua and the company of O. Deripaska En +. It is supposed to produce about 6 million tons of coal per year, but it is still far from production. It can be started in 2018, and the output to the designed capacity is preliminarily planned in 2021.

Thus, Russian-Chinese coal projects among the most realistic ones may prove to be beneficial for Yakutia, the Amur Region and the Trans-Baikal Territory. But their implementation will take several years, taking into account the need for infrastructure construction, both in the field of deposits and for the export of coal through sea ports. In this case, Russia can get a few years to 10% of Chinese coal imports. The development of coal deposits in Chukotka is still too costly, although there is also a prospect for joint Russian-Chinese projects.

The fourth strategic direction after oil, gas and coal is the export of Russian electricity to China. Here, just Russia, as a country bordering China, can take an important place in the Chinese market, and this is already happening. In 2012, the export of electricity to China from Russia has more than doubled (it began at 2005, still under RAO UES of Russia, which concluded the first agreement). In 2013, it reached 2,65 billion kilowatt hours, which was more than 35% of total Chinese imports. The growth was due to the commissioning of the Amurskaya-Heihe transmission line, through which half of the exports go. The other half is carried out through the power lines Blagoveshchensk-Aihui and Blagoveshchensk-Heihe. From the Russian side, electricity flows through the Amur Region, which is the key border region in this case.

At the same time, while China imports small amounts of electricity, and the cooperation here is more local and experimental (Russian exports are 0,05% of China's own production). There are more ambitious plans, and they envisage an increase in exports to 38,4 billion kilowatt hours per year (according to other sources - even 48 billion) and the construction of a powerful transmission line to Beijing. In this case, Russia will in fact become the main exporter of electric power to China, but this does not mean, of course, market dominance, since the bulk of the electricity China produces and will produce on its own territory (the share of Russian imports is unlikely to exceed 1% of Chinese consumption) .

To implement such a large (for Russia) export project, the development of the Yerkovetsky brown coal deposit in the Amur Region with the subsequent construction of a unique large thermal power plant with the capacity of 5-8 GW (its capacity is comparable to the total capacity of all currently operating power plants in the Far East) is of key importance. Now the main participant of Russian export projects in the power industry, Inter RAO is developing a preliminary feasibility study of the project together with the State Electric Grid Corporation of China (this company, being a Chinese analogue of Rossetey, is already building cross-border networks in the Amur Region in the framework of old projects). The "Eastern Energy Company" registered in Blagoveshchensk, which is controlled by Inter RAO UES, is engaged in the actual delivery of electricity and the project of the Erkovetskaya TPP. In addition, in May, an agreement on intentions on strategic cooperation between Inter RAO and the large Chinese generating company Huaneng was signed, but it is not yet clear what specific content it will be filled with.

In turn, RusHydro is interested in implementing a joint project to build flood control hydroelectric power stations in the Far East, which is becoming the second most important Russian-Chinese project in the field of generation in the macroregion, after Yerkovetsky. She has agreements with Sanxia on this. Joint construction of small hydropower plants in Russia "RusHydro" also plans with the generating company China Power Investment Corporation, but their localization is possible outside the Far East. In May, RusHydro, which belongs to RusHydro, signed an agreement with Dongfang Electric, a manufacturer of power equipment, which includes investments in a gas turbine unit at the Vladivostok CHP-2, as well as the development of solar energy in Yakutia. 

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