As Russia's relationships with the West become increasingly fragile amid ongoing economic sanctions, Moscow continues to look towards China for economic opportunities — and energy is one space where that relationship is flourishing.
"The relations between the Russian Federation and People's Republic of China are on the rise," President Vladimir Putin said in a welcome message at a Russian-Chinese Energy Forum in Beijing on Thursday. "An important part of these relations is energy cooperation which has lately received significant development."
Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping organized the first Russian-Chinese energy forum during their meeting in June 2018, a meeting where the leaders vowed to pursue economic initiatives and to oppose the trade protectionism promoted by Donald Trump.
This perspective was articulated by the head of Russia's major oil company Rosneft, Igor Sechin, who spoke at the Russian-Chinese Energy Forum on Thursday. Sechin said that "certain aspects of the current political conditions in the world, increasing protectionism and threat of trade wars in the world economy serve as additional incentives to cooperate more closely and make decisions faster," according to Russian news agency TASS.
"In many ways, Russia ties prospects for increasing economic growth to advancing development of Eastern territories and development of natural resources there. China, in turn, is interested in ensuring its energy security and reliable supply channels," Sechin said.
Such a pivot towards China and its neighbors has been no less apparent that at this year's Russia Calling investment forum taking place in Moscow this week, with business leaders in the energy sphere. Held by Russian bank VTB, the forum has seen the trend continue with Russia eyeing more opportunities in China, especially in the energy sphere.
VTB Bank President and Chairman Andrey Kostin told CNBC on Wednesday that Russia has an "extremely close relationship with China" that it wants to develop further. His comments came after it was announced in September that a group of Russian and Chinese businesses are considering 73 joint investments worth more than $100 billion.
"We have quite a big economic interest, our trade is now $100 billion and China is Russia's largest trading partner. China will not substitute Western investors or the West for us, but China is now quite important for Russia and we are very eager to develop further our relationship with China, in all areas," he told CNBC's Julianna Tatelbaum at the investment forum.