Chinese banks have been providing major support to Russia leaving the Western world braced for a strong reaction.
Chinese lenders provided this help when Western financial institutions reduced their activities in Russia during the first year of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The efforts of four of China’s top banks are part of Beijing’s larger strategy to promote the renminbi as a global currency alternative to the US dollar.
According to the most recent official data analysed by the Kyiv School of Economics for the Financial Times, China’s exposure to Russia’s banking industry increased fourfold in the 14 months leading up to the end of March this year.
Due to the harsh economic environment caused by international sanctions, Chinese banks effectively filled the hole left by Western banks, who faced tremendous pressure from regulatory and political authorities in their respective countries to exit from Russia.
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According to Russian central bank data, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank, and Agricultural Bank of China increased their combined investment in Russia from $2.2 billion to $9.7 billion in the 14 months leading up to March.
Notably, ICBC and Bank of China held $8.8 billion of these assets.
Simultaneously, Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank, which has the most foreign exposure to Russia, had its assets expand by more than 40 per cent during the same period, rising from $20.5 billion to $29.2 billion.
Raiffeisen, on the other hand, has stated its intention to investigate departure plans from Russia and has cut its assets to $25.5 billion since March.
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Russia’s ruble has dropped significantly in recent months, leading the country’s central bank to intervene to stabilise its value. Until now, the government has used the declining ruble to its advantage.
However, a falling currency raises the possibility of higher prices for regular Russians, prompting the government to take steps to stop the depreciation.
The decline in the value of the ruble can be linked to Russia’s decreasing exports, specifically declining revenue from oil and natural gas, along with a rise in imports.
Individuals and businesses that import items into Russia must convert rubles for other currencies such as dollars or euros, putting downward pressure on the ruble’s exchange rate.
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Russia’s trade surplus, which indicates that it sells more items than it purchases, has shrunk.
Russia used to run a significant trade surplus, owing to high oil prices and restricted imports following its invasion of Ukraine.
However, oil prices have fallen this year, and Russia is having difficulty exporting its oil due to Western sanctions, which include price caps on crude oil and allied goods such as diesel.
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