CZ/SK verze

Russia and China Reinvent Rail Trade Amid European Shifts

Russia and China Reinvent Rail Trade Amid European Shifts
photo: RAILTARGET Archive/Russia and China Reinvent Rail Trade Amid European Shifts
25 / 10 / 2023

In the ever-shifting landscape of global trade, China-Russia rail freight volumes have marked a significant upturn. In just the initial nine months of 2023, 128 million tons were conveyed via rail, a leap of 51.5% compared to the same timeframe the previous year. This upsurge, as noted by Russian Railways (RZD), counters earlier apprehensions voiced by several Chinese rail freight entities. Further bolstering this surge are the newly introduced routes like Moscow-Beijing and Moscow-Langfang. However, Russia grapples with an import-export imbalance. While Chinese imports soar, Western exports lag, leading to a bottleneck of over 150,000 containers within Russian territory, as they await return to China.

The underlying factors driving this pronounced shift range from strategic choices to external pressures. Oleg Belozerov, RZD's chief, alludes to Russia’s “turn to the East” policy, a recalibration towards fostering trade with Eastern nations. Contrarily, some speculate that the robust China-Russia rail freight figures are repercussions of the European Union's sanctions against Moscow, post Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. These sanctions, notably affecting sensitive products, hampered the China-Europe rail route via Russia, resulting in discernible declines, especially at Małaszewicze, a major European border crossing. An illustrative case is the automotive industry: curtailed from accessing European vehicles due to sanctions, Russia pivots towards Chinese cars. This redirection is further exemplified by collaborative ventures like the one between RZD and FESCO, focusing on swift rail transit of Chinese electric vehicles.

It's worth mentioning that Małaszewicze's role in the Silk Road has notably decreased. Previously a busy transit point, recent data shows a 24.3% decrease in Westbound volumes and a significant 91% reduction in Eastbound shipments to China in the first half of 2023. Disruptions such as the Russian war in Ukraine and its ripple effects have precipitated this trend. In tandem with this shift, a substantial 80% of Chinese international freight is now geared towards Russia, underscoring a paradigmatic reorientation. This evolving scenario sets the stage for the forthcoming European Silk Road Summit 2023 in Budapest, where stakeholders will deliberate on Poland's evolving role and the broader ramifications for European trade.