Trade between Russia and China is booming so much that shipping containers are ‘piling up'

Shipping containers from China are 'piling up' in Russia amid a surge of Chinese goods flowing into the country as trade soars, a new analysis has found.

Trade between Russia and China is booming so much that shipping containers are ‘piling up'

Editor's note: Subscribe to CNN's Meanwhile In China newsletter, which explores the rise of China and its impact on the world.


A new study has revealed that shipping containers from China are piling up in Russia as a result of the influx of Chinese products into Russia.

Container xChange, a logistics platform, said that a customer had provided information in a report published Thursday. The report stated that Russia has 150,000 extra shipping containers, which importers are scrambling back to China.

There is a significant amount of cargo moving from China to Russia, but there are very few movements back from Russia to China. The report stated that there are many containers in Russia and the prices of secondhand containers are low.

China is now a vital economic lifeline for Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. The United States and allies have cut off trade and imposed restrictions to stop the Kremlin war effort. China insists it is neutral and wants only peace in Ukraine.

But Chinese leaders view Moscow as an important strategic partner, and a counterweight to a hostile West. Beijing has condemned Western sanctions against its northern neighbor while increasing Russian energy purchases, and becoming an important supplier of consumer products for the Russian market.

According to Container xChange, the container glut is a result of 'deepening imbalances in trade between Russia and China,' with respect to the type of goods sent via container.

According to Chinese customs data published earlier this month, the bilateral trade in the first eight of 2023 increased by 32% over the same period the year before. The total volume reached $155 billion.

This included a 63.2% increase in exports to Russia from China, reaching $71.8 billion. Imports from China increased at a modest 13.3%, to $83.3 billion.

Russia said that it expected trade with China this year to reach a new record of $200 billion -- a full year ahead the schedule set by President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Leader Xi Jinping for 2019.

Growing trade ties between China and Russia have led to a shift in the direction of Russian energy trade. This has prompted criticism that China is supporting Russia's conflict with Ukraine through its economic support.

Container xChange says that the type of goods traded is contributing to Russia's surplus of shipping container.

The report referred to China's purchases from Russia of raw materials that are transported primarily via rail tanks and wagons, rather than containers.

After the Russian invasion, hundreds of global brands have fled the country. Chinese suppliers now sell consumer electronics and cars.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said earlier this month that almost a fifth of China’s crude imports came from Russia.

In a report published in August, the International Energy Agency reported that China and India together accounted for 80 percent of Russian oil exports during July.

Container xChange has also highlighted broader logistical problems linked to changing trade patterns and congestion.

Overloaded Russian roads and ports are leading to inefficient transportation. It said that although some infrastructure improvements have been made, fiscal constraints, and the... [methods] used to cover budget shortfalls, complicate things.